Benjamin Gim ’49 was a noted immigration lawyer and human rights advocate. He passed away on January 16, 2010, at the age of 87.
The son of Chinese immigrants, Gim grew up in Salt Lake City. He was a star on the debate team at the University of Utah and served in the Army for three years during World War II before beginning his legal education at the University of Utah Law School. After completing his first year, however, a member of the faculty told Gim he didn’t have “a Chinaman’s chance” of successfully practicing law in Utah, according to an obituary. Facing such profound discrimination, Gim transferred to Columbia Law School and graduated in 1949.
Gim began his career at the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Narcotics and then became the first assistant attorney general of Asian ancestry in New York. Gim later established the immigration law firm Gim & Wong in New York City’s Chinatown neighborhood, where he practiced for almost 50 years. He also went on to serve as an immigration law lecturer at Columbia Law School.
Gim’s career was marked by several important milestones: He was the first Asian-American to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court and the first to serve as president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. The National Law Journal named him one of the 20 best immigration lawyers in the United States, and he received awards and accolades from numerous organizations, including the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Gim is survived by his wife, Cindy, and his daughters, Karen and Jennifer.