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Angelo Paparelli on Dysfunctional Government

Fallen Patriot

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I lost a great friend this weekend, Steve Fischel, but America lost a patriot.  Stunned and tearful as the news of his passing spread, I walked aimlessly through the Vancouver Convention Center last Saturday afternoon, realizing in awe how many AILA members likewise cherished a close friendship with him.

Steve and I were to share an EB-5 panel last Wednesday, but he never made it.  A passenger on his flight took ill and the plane was diverted.  His last emails to me were classic Steve.  He wrote to be sure we both were ready so that we would give our audience good value.  In reply I'd emailed him my portion of the presentation on best practices in EB-5 risk management, ironically entitled:  "Stress Relief and Blissful Sleep."   He replied by email: "Thanks.  This is helpful. Look forward to see you. S"

I never saw Steve at the AILA conference, but learned right away that he had been felled by a ruptured aortic aneurysm as he sat chatting with friends.

My loss, even when amplified by the heartfelt grief of so many of Steve's friends in AILA and his colleagues in government, does not tell the full story of America's loss of this marvelous fallen patriot.  Steve served honorably and well in the State Department for 31-plus years, but we in AILA first came to know him in 1981 as he articulated eloquently the Department's positions on a host of immigration issues.  Unlike  so many of the current crop of government officials who administer and enforce the immigration laws, Steve appreciated and respected immigration lawyers.  He saw us not as adversaries but as participants in a legal process that brought profound blessings to America.  Steve, like other officals of his era (Cornelius "Dick" Scully at State, and Jackie Bednarz and Larry Weinig at INS -- all thankfully still alive), believed that his job was to help lawyers, newcomers and veterans alike, understand the immigration law and the government's interpretations.  He never had an axe to grind; his approach was always to achieve the correct legal answer and the just result.

To be sure, we didn't always agree, especially on consular nonreviewability, but I never walked away from an exchange with Steve feeling that he'd denied me a fair hearing or a thoughtful response. With a *****le in his eye, a wide smile and a deadpan, comedic retort, Steve could joust with the best of us.

He made a great, positive impact on immigration law, helping to craft the NAFTA TN provisions, improving the J-1 waiver process, and reconciling the conflicting E-1 and E-2 interpretations of INS and State, to name but a few.  And then he retired from State, the deserving recipient of awards aplenty, and crossed the aisle to practice immigration law, always with success and gusto.  The American Immigration Law Foundation, which he served as a member of the Board of Trustees, awarded him its Distinguished Public Service Award in March 2006.  The video of his acceptance speech will bring a tear or several to your eyes but it's worth watching.

Although most Americans and millions of immigrants to our country may never have known Steve, his impact on their lives, the benefits he helped confer, the American Dreams fulfilled with his aid, will be remembered sadly and proudly by all of the many close friends who mourn his passing. 


Although your life was cut short, you can now enjoy stress relief and blissful sleep.  May you know, in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, that you lived life successfully indeed:

"Those are a success who have lived well, laughed often, and loved much; who have gained the respect of intelligent people and the love of children, who have filled their niche and accomplished their task, who leave the world better than they found it, whether by a perfect poem or a rescued soul; who never lacked appreciation of the earth's beauty or failed to express it; who looked for the best in others and gave the best they had."


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  1. Randall Caudle's Avatar
    Angelo - Thank you for the info on Steve and your comments. Very well stated. The Ralph Waldo Emerson poem is perfect. Randall
  2. 's Avatar
    Angelo, I had the same experience. He was never too busy to give you a patient hearing. And he gave his views giving proper thought but with always a smile on his face. He will be missed by so many of us...INDRA GANDHI
  3. Virginia Conant's Avatar
    Thank you so much for your kind complements about my cousin Stepen. We are stuned and greatly saddened and knowing that he was so loved and repected helps us to face our grief.
  4. Angelo Paparelli's Avatar
    Dear Ms. Conant:

    Thank you for writing in response to my post on Steve Fischel, your cousin. Many people have written to me privately. With permission, I am posting an excerpt from an email sent to me by one of Steve's close friends, Joan Squires-Lind, who practices in Paris, France. I hope your family and you find this comforting.

    Angelo Paparelli

    Angelo, I wanted to thank you for what you wrote about Steve.

    Untold numbers of us are devastated by his death, and it was consoling to share in your recollections. He was exceptional, irreplaceable, and deeply (I can't find the right word in English right now) attachant.

    Endearing is the closest I can come.

    At dinner Friday we all drank to his fight, and I prayed for him over the 5,000 miles of my return on Saturday. I can't get him out of my thoughts.

    The Emerson [quote]was a wonderful choice, and a poem to live by

    On the theme of stress relief and blissful sleep, do you know the Herodotus? It is perhaps the first mention of 'those whom the gods favor die young.'

    The story concerns two especially favored youths who, replacing two missing oxen, hitched themselves to a cart and carried their mother to a festival for the goddess Hera.

    At the temple, the grateful mother asked Hera to reward her sons with the greatest gift anyone might receive, whereupon her sons lay down to sleep and never woke again

    Joan Squires-Lind, Attorney at Law

    Admitted to the Bars of New York & Paris

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