A Humble Giant: 70 Years Defending Immigrants and Radicals


A Humble Giant: Seventy Years Defending Immigrants and Radicals tells the story of legendary attorney Ira Gollobin, who was instrumental in crafting the practice of combining brilliant legal work and social justice organizing to successfully fight for immigrants’ and political activists’ rights. His legacy is a generation of attorneys and activists who use the courts and the streets to challenge ever-more punitive immigration policies that curtail civil liberties in the name of “national security.”

Born to immigrant parents, Gollobin worked his way through Fordham Law School during the depression. Graduating in 1931 Gollobin spent a year “riding the rails” across the US, sleeping in flophouses and picking fruit with migrant workers. After experiencing the conditions of the unemployed and migrant laborers, Ira returned to NYC committed to practicing law that served working class people.

Ira Gollobin cut his lawyer’s teeth defending refugees from fascist Spain and Germany and finding safe haven for veterans of the International Brigades. He was a founding member of the National Lawyers Guild. As an attorney for The American Committee for the Protection of the Foreign Born, Gollobin defended non-citizens targeted during the McCarthy period. From 1948 to 1968 he represented countless people who were subpoenaed before the House Un-American Activities Committee (One of Gollobin’s HUAC clients was this filmmaker’s father.) In the 1970s and 1980s Gollobin led the legal team that won political refugee status for thousands of Haitians who were arriving in the US and being detained in abominable conditions.

Ira’s unflinching defense of human rights throughout the 20th century is filled with dramatic stories that can inform and inspire us to action today. Through moving and powerful testimony of asylum seekers, legal and movement colleagues, and family members A Humble Giant: Seventy Years Defending Immigrants and Radicals will highlight several key cases that illuminate how Gollobin’s visionary work transformed American legal practice and helped found what we know today as the immigrants’ and workers’ rights movements.


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