Author Archive

148,000 Missed Opportunities

shutterstock_148806083I’m just now fully coming out of the chaotic, hectic darkness that has clouded every H-1B season for the past many years.  Once again, I find myself struggling with “Immigration PTSD”  – Post Traumatic Submission Disorder.  The cause of this syndrome is two-fold.  First, I live with the dreaded anticipation that the number of submissions will be such that not even a fair percentage of my submitted applications have a realistic hope of selection.  To make matters worse, I live in fear that, heaven forbid, I have made a minute non-material error, which will cause even a selected application to fail. Sadly, my fears are once again well founded.

This year the USCIS received 233,000 applications for 85,000 available slots.  Thus, 148,000, almost two thirds, of the petitions received in the first five days of April will be rejected out of hand without any review. A lottery has been held and the unpicked petitions so painstakingly pulled together by immigration lawyers, with help from innumerable paralegals and legal assistants, and dutifully delivered on time by FedEx, UPS, or the U.S. Postal Service, will be returned.

The data shows that the number of submissions is a direct reflection of the fact that American employers desperately need the workers for whom they petitioned. Simply, they need these foreign workers to help create products, technology, ideas, and innovations.  No employer in its right mind would go through this process or angst if they did not.  Further, as American Immigration Council Executive Director Ben Johnson recently testified in a  Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, those high-skilled immigrant workers have been shown to go on to create even more jobs, thus building our economy and contributing to the success of us all, not just the company for which they work.  Hopes will be dashed, business plans will crumble, and instead of surging forward with the right personnel, companies will be stalled again for another year while they try to make do.

Finally, and perhaps one of the greatest sources of stress for those trying to assist employers and better the economy, is that hopes will be dashed not just because the numbers alone do not and cannot possibly account for the number of workers needed, but because the process is one that does not allow for one, literally not one, error.

Our immigration system is broken, not just by its antiquated numerical limitations but also by its process.  A missed checkbox is grounds for denial, and although denial is not mandated for such errors, it is permitted.  Unfortunately, permission has become a license to kill an otherwise clearly approvable petition.

Transpose a number in a check so that it is off even by only one dollar and USCIS will reject the application. Tax filings, patent applications, and almost any other type of application can be amended.  While the law does not bar corrections to immigration applications, that opportunity is simply not afforded to filers. To err is human, except in the context of immigration, at least for applicants.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Congress could tie the H-1B visa cap to actual market demand. It’s not a crazy concept. When we had an economic downturn, demand fell, so the H-1B visa cap was reached in months instead of days. Why can’t we have the same sort of rising cap when our economy is doing well?  Similarly, our system does not mandate strict liability or compliance.  We do not need Congressional action to dictate that leniency, where permitted, be provided. The laws, common and good economic sense, do that already.  The H-1B visa system is long overdue for an overhaul – Congress should get started today.

Written by Leslie A. Holman, AILA President

Starting Off the New Year

shutterstock_238081117I promised myself that this year I would sleep in and not rush to my email and/or open my computer before I had my first cup of coffee. Sigh. At 6:45 a.m. on the first day of 2015 I had already broken my first resolution.

Resolutions are the bane of many an existence right about now. They are at the same time harbingers of hope and change and also the unwelcome reminders of good intentions forgotten or ignored.

Although our President did not call his recent statements and plans for changes to our immigration system “resolutions,” I am considering them such and I am resolved (Holman Resolution #2) to see that he keeps them.

Heck, I’m aiming big. Why not?  Surely it is an easier resolution to keep than following some new-fangled diet or juice cleanse.

The President told us that business development in the U.S. and keeping families together are of paramount importance to him and necessary for the wellbeing of our country. I agree. We all agree. Lets make it so, now, in early 2015.

The President doesn’t need to wait for regulations to be written. If he and his administration take the following four easy steps we can and will start to immediately see some of the reform we desperately need.

  1. Direct the agencies responsible for immigration (USCIS, CBP, ICE, DOS) to follow the laws as written and with an eye towards inclusion rather than exclusion! We have lived with the preference for denial for too long. A bit of direction to the agencies in this area (i.e. returning to the long-followed definition of affiliation that permitted hospitals and medical facilities to employ the doctors they so desperately need, actually approving statutorily qualified L-1 petitions, recognizing that employees genuinely telecommute, recognizing the importance of foreign artists and athletes) would in just a few months make huge inroads in accomplishing what we need and what the President said he desires.
  2. Ensure that the agencies speak to and hear each other by hosting regular Interagency Stakeholder meetings. Since the dissolution of the INS and creation of separate agencies to accomplish what was once accomplished by one agency, adjudications have become wildly inconsistent. Needless to say the lack of consistency in adjudications has created havoc for businesses and is causing them to give up on the U.S. and take their money and innovations elsewhere. We tell our businesses that even if their petition has been approved another agency may decide not to honor the approval and may subsequently deny it. And to make matters worse, they won’t be told why.
  3. Remind the agencies that attorneys are an integral part of the process and encourage and require them to work meaningfully with counsel, both in liaision and as counsel to clients. I can’t count the amount of times I, my clients, and other AILA members related encounters with the government where attorney intervention, assistance or even input was not only denied, but worse disparaged.  My favorite quote and the most often repeated in the past 8 years is this: “when we see an attorney’s letter or encounter their presence we assume that something is wrong.”  Really?  I hire an accountant not because I cheat at my taxes but because she ensures that what I file is done correctly.  Our President is himself an attorney, he must get this.
  4. Stop the immoral and inhumane incarceration of kids and their moms fleeing danger and ensure that the laws we enacted to protect them are followed.   Our President knows that denying bond and/or moving families without notice to their attorneys or relatives and without due process is wrong and harmful. He can stop it.  He must stop it.

The President is lucky. He has two years to accomplish his resolutions and to fight tooth and nail for additional action on immigration through Congress and the executive branch. I thank him for his promises and resolve that we, AILA, will do what we can to guarantee his success.  Here’s to, and cheers to, 2015.

Written by Leslie A. Holman, AILA President

Action at Last

I AdminReform_300x200watched with bated breath. I listened to President Obama make his last case for why administrative action was not just the right thing to do, it was the only thing to do. And I heard from him what his plans entailed.

I read, amazed, the barrage of news reports and opinion pieces before, during, and after the announcement. I combed through the documents AILA compiled and posted. I’m gathering as much information as possible.

The whole time I have been thinking nonstop.

I’ve been running through my clients, tagging those I think will be affected by some of the announced plans (though I’m waiting for those devilish details). I’ve been jotting down questions I have about L-1s and entrepreneurs, about DAPA and DACA, about all the moving parts of these announcements.

I also thought about families I’ve never met. Children and parents I’ve never seen who are feeling so hopeful now. I thought about Jose Antonio Vargas, someone I had the pleasure to talk with at our Annual Conference at the opening of his movie, who now becomes eligible for Deferred Action – and to see his mom – because of this administrative relief.

There is so much damage done to so many lives, to so many businesses and communities because of our broken immigration system. And I’m fed up.

To be honest, I wanted and still want legislative reform, the sort of reform that will offer a solid foundation on which a new system that actually fits the needs of our country can be built. We still don’t have that.

But we do have a President who is acting in the best interest of the country after months of delays by Congress.  The actions he has taken will keep the America safer and offer relief that takes into account the needs of families and businesses.

As President he can’t fix all the problems with America’s current immigration system. That’s not how our country works. So this is a stopgap measure. It’s not permanent but what I desperately hope is that Congress will respond. Not with ridiculous claims that they will impeach the President and have him serve time for his executive overreach, but instead respond with measured, deliberate, careful consideration of an actual immigration reform bill.

That feels like a lot to ask in the rancorous political environment in which we find ourselves today. But it’s not too much to ask. So today I’m saying thank you to the President and I’m asking Congress, for the umpteenth time: won’t you please pass immigration reform?

Written by Leslie A. Holman, AILA President

What It Boils Down To

shutterstock_170940386Well, pundits are hashing over what happened on Tuesday but here’s what it boils down to: Republicans will have control of the Senate in the next Congress (at least 52-43), as well as strengthening their majority in the House (at least 243-175).

A new Congress offers possibilities, offers the hope of action to revamp our immigration laws. We had quite the time over the last Congress with the Senate passing bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform. We were full of hope. And then…crickets chirped while we stood waiting for the House to act.

No such luck. But here’s the thing, AILA worked with both Republicans and Democrats as we always do and will continue to do so, offering expertise about what parts of our immigration system are broken and solutions for how to create a new system that actually works for business, families, and our country as a whole.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that the majority of Americans want action on immigration reform, and that the possibility of legalizing the undocumented still wins out over “deport them all.” That’s heartening as we head into the holidays and the last few weeks of this lame duck Congressional period.

We have some time left before 2015 and President Obama must keep his promise to deliver major administrative reforms by the end of the year. Delay has only meant more broken families and frustrated businesses. These are folks I hear from every single day. What we want, in the absence of our real need for legislative reform, is for President Obama to do what is within his legal authority to fix the immigration system.

I know some are worried about executive action not helping matters, but here’s the thing: We can’t afford to wait any longer. Businesses can’t afford to be left hanging, trying to hire the best person to stand up a factory, or create new products. Entrepreneurs from all over the world who have big ideas and want to start their companies here shouldn’t have roadblocks thrown in their way. Families can’t wait any longer for the chance to be reunited with a loved one when the only thing bogging down the process is our convoluted bureaucracy. And we can’t continue to deport people with close family in, and long-term ties to, the U.S.

So, let’s turn from this election with renewed energy. Push for administrative action while strengthening relationships with Hill offices from both sides of the aisle. Offer information and expertise to the newly elected coming to D.C. And greet this next chapter in the fight for immigration reform with strength and determination.

Written by Leslie A.  Holman, AILA President

Championing the Vulnerable

shutterstock_170933780As an immigration lawyer from Vermont, I was thrilled to see the recent letter that Senate Judiciary Chairman Leahy (D-VT), one of my Senators, led the charge on. What does that letter to the Department of Homeland Security condemn? The heartless and inhumane expansion of family detention.

It is appalling to me that our government is ramping up jails for mothers and children who are fleeing violence – domestic or gang-based – and desperately seeking safety. These women and children are kept in facilities, far from anywhere with a large contingent of immigration lawyers who could help them make their legitimate case for asylum to an immigration judge.

Instead they are stuck in makeshift facilities like Artesia, NM, and Karnes, TX and soon Dilley, TX as well. Our stalwart members have volunteered in shifts, making their way to these outposts and advising these women, fighting for their rights to due process, and making a huge difference.

I’m so happy to see these ten Senators standing with these women and children. Instead of ramping up detention, we need to look at humane and effective alternatives to detention. These moms and their kids aren’t national security threats that need to be confined for our safety, they are victims and they need our help.

Here are some excerpts from the letter:

“This decision threatens to make permanent a practice of presumptive detention for families and marks a reversal of this administration’s family detention policy.  We fear that the result will be the ongoing detention of asylum-seeking women and children who have shown a credible fear of being returned to their home country and pose no flight risk or danger to the community. We are particularly concerned with the negative consequences of long-term detention on the physical and mental well-being of young children.”

“Mothers and their children who have fled violence in their home countries should not be treated like criminals. They have come seeking refuge from three of the most dangerous countries in the world, countries where women and girls face shocking rates of domestic and sexual violence and murder. Here in the United States, we have just celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, a law we hold out as an example of our commitment to take these crimes seriously and to protect all victims. The ongoing detention of women and children who have made credible claims that they have been victims of those very crimes is unacceptable.”

Read the full letter for yourself. I sure hope the Administration does. We need our government to bring its actions back in line with our country’s values and stop throwing moms and kids into jail for doing what any reasonable person would do: flee persecution.

Written by Leslie Holman, AILA President


If you are an AILA member who wants to volunteer at a family detention center, please go to or feel free to contact Maheen Taqui at–we are looking for more as the work continues and we could really use your help.

If you aren’t able to come help in person, consider donating at And thank you!

To watch videos of the volunteers at Artesia and elsewhere sharing their experiences, go to this playlist on AILA National’s YouTube page. To see all the blog posts about this issue select Family Detention as the category on the right side of this page.




Let’s Dance

Leslie DanceThis blog post is adapted from the speech I gave when I was installed as AILA’s President for the 2014-15 term. I was thrilled to be able to reflect at the Annual Conference hosted by my home chapter, the New England Chapter of AILA.

New England is where I found immigration and, if I hadn’t found immigration I don’t think that I would be practicing law. I started my legal career in New York as a commercial litigator, but I found my calling after moving to Vermont. I found it in immigration law through dance in Vermont – African dance in Vermont.

While I have always loved to dance, I’m not the most adept at it, but that never stopped me from enjoying all forms of dance in all its facets. So it was that in 1998 I began attending African dance classes in Burlington. Several members of the National Ballet of Guinea as well as Senegal and the Ivory Coast lived and worked in Burlington and after class they would ask me questions about their immigration status (P-3s). However, I knew nothing about immigration whatsoever and referred them to a terrific immigration attorney instead.

I am a first generation American (my mother was born in and escaped from Hungary) and between my history and my involvement with foreign dancers I made a life altering decision by deciding to concentrate only on immigration.  I distinctly remember my first task. I needed to determine whether a client had been admitted to the U.S. Admitted? They were here weren’t they?  – Of course they were admitted.  It took 16 hours of research before I realized that I had entered a world where nothing was as it seemed: the world of immigration law.

Five years ago I started on my way to the AILA presidency, working my way up from Secretary through all the roles and responsibilities until this year. Looking back at those years, I reviewed the goals I had set out each year for myself and the organization. I took a look at what had been resolved and accomplished, what issues recurred over and over again, what issues still remain, and which of my goals have not yet been reached.

While many of my priorities changed from year to year one issue remained constant – ironically it was the lack of consistency and predictability in adjudications, determinations, rulings, and admissions – and the need to fix this through, among other things, interagency engagement. Our world requires that we typically deal with not just one agency, but at least two, and generally three.

When I meet with new clients, I along with other immigration attorneys, often find myself saying something akin to the following during our initial consultation:  “Before we proceed it is imperative that you understand that, even if your petition is approved by the USCIS, you are not home free. You also need approval from the Department of State and then, even if you pass that hurdle, you still must obtain permission from U.S. Customs and Border Protection to actually enter the U.S.”

This situation is unfortunately a constant in all areas of our practice whether it is business, family, or removal. Think of H-1B visas denied after petition approval for critical employees, approved fiancées who never get here, or as we call it in our office, “love’s labors lost,” or waiver applicants with provisional grants denied on other grounds not previously believed to make one inadmissible. The interagency disconnect is not limited to the petition, visa, and subsequent admission situation. It is also at the heart of so many of the procedural issues that we face.

Thus, it makes sense that my primary long-term goal relates to AILA’s liaison work. One of the many benefits of living in Vermont is that I learned to practice immigration in a place where I truly had access to government officials and was able to work with them to address some of the issues that came up as a result of interagency miscommunication.

Having learned to practice where openness and accessibility continue to be the standard has guided my vision. Those of you who have sat in meetings with me likely have heard two recurrent themes. The first is that my local CBP, USCIS, and ICE offices are the exemplar. I have never felt that I could not approach them and they have always been willing to talk and listen. The second is a request I make, at each and every meeting: whether the agency would be open to a multi-agency dialogue at a later date.

I believe that many of our adjudication and process problems stem from the fact that two or more agencies have conflicting interpretations of the law or regulations and that they do not actually know the effect that their actions have on the applicant when that applicant must next deal with another agency. They may not know what switching to an automated form might mean for another agency which still requires a hardcopy. I believe that we could solve so many issues if we were just permitted to sit down together and explain the problems that crop up.

Interagency engagement is not the only way to attain more consistency and predictability in what we do. Another aspect is the need to locate, isolate, and change the negative policy that seems to be driving so many adjudications, decisions, and admissions. In our area of practice, I think more than in any other, discretion abounds. But it seems that more often than not the trend is toward denial rather than acceptance.

Earlier I told you that I found immigration through African Dance. However, not only did African Dance lead me to immigration, it taught me immigration. In representing my dance community I encountered early on in my career almost every immigration situation there is. The good news is that I was able to help them, at least until fairly recently.

Almost three years ago, one of my clients returned home to Guinea to visit his family and bring back new and current dance and drum rhythms. He had an approved P-3 and had never been in trouble with the law or violated his status. However despite that, his visa was denied for immigrant intent. He had returned to Guinea because of his strong family ties, yet he was denied. That sort of denial would not have happened just a few years ago.

Through all the ups and downs of immigration law practice, one thing has been constant – AILA. AILA is a community where people who perform the same work can obtain from it the tools they need to practice their profession. I truly believe that with just the InfoNet and AILAlink immigration attorneys have all the tools they need to practice immigration and, practice it well. But by also offering accessibility to mentors, practice management help, ethics guidance, media training, advocacy, and liaison assistance, immigration attorneys get all that they need to become well rounded and truly excellent in their field.

More than that though, I believe AILA goes far beyond just a professional community. It is also a fellowship. I practiced law for 11 years before joining AILA. I never experienced elsewhere the support, camaraderie and professional generosity with my peers that I found here. I ask that all of you continue to engage, to care deeply about AILA and its governance, and to share your thoughts and insights.

I am looking forward to this year. To liaising with the government and you. To working together to make positive changes in immigration, to make things better for our clients, to making AILA the best it can be.

Almost every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday I wake up with a feeling that something is special. They are dance days. I hope that every day this coming year is a dance day. If that happens I know that we can accomplish our goals and make a difference, as, in the words of the Hopi who steadfastly believed that through dance they would influence the Gods and accomplish their goals,  – To watch us dance is to hear our hearts speak. So, let’s dance!

Written by Leslie A. Holman, AILA President

To watch Leslie’s full speech, including a performance by her friends from the African dance and drumming community Jeh Kulu, watch here: Video: Leslie Holman Installation Speech

Numbers Add Up

Numbers can be, well, mindnumbing.  But they are something that all of us use every single day.  Price of gas? A number.  Mortgage or rent payment due?  A number.  Groceries, utilities, daycare, you name it and it can be numbered.

I want to share some numbers with you—powerful numbers on immigration reform that have been stacking up over the last few months.

Today, Gallup released a poll, that showed 72% of Americans said immigration was a “good thing” for the country and a quarter who said it was bad.  That is a huge step forward as we try and convince the House that tackling real immigration reform is necessary.

People across the country are recognizing that our current system is broken, it’s not fair to families, businesses, and offers no chance of a life free from fear for those undocumented.  This isn’t red state versus blue state we’re talking about here. Polls done in 29 states, ranging from Texas to Maine and Arkansas to Illinois had over 87% off respondents (Democrats, Republicans and Independents) saying that “it was very or somewhat important that the U.S. fix it’s immigration system this year.”  It’s been a good long while since I saw over 87% of Americans agree on anything.

And despite a lot of the rhetoric out there, a majority of us (72%) are in favor of a tough but fair path to citizenship for those here without documents, including 59% of Republicans surveyed, 68% of Independents and 90% of Democrats.

Let’s not forget some of the most important numbers of all: those from the recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) updated scoring of the Senate bill as passed.  My favorite number from that was the more than $800 billion over twenty years that would be removed from the federal deficit if we actually implement S. 744’s set of comprehensive reform provisions.

Now these are mostly national numbers, and those can be compelling but most of our Congressional leaders are going to be focused in on their constituencies and the impact of immigration on their district or state, because that’s in their interest as they gear up for the 2014 elections.  There are plenty more numbers for that each of us can use, available at AIC’s state-by-state interactive page.  And yesterday, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy released estimates of what the undocumented pay in state and local taxes, including what additional revenues may come in after immigration reform.

So pick a number, any number, and get out there.  Work with other stakeholders, coalition partners, and your community.  Use the numbers, add in your client stories, and our voices will be multiplied.

The Day the Music Died

Music – It’s as American as apple pie.  Last week 39.3 million Americans tuned in to watch the Grammys. I was not one of them. It hurt too much.  That morning I had to tell a Master drummer and dancer who has spent the last five years sharing with our country the unique and beautiful music and dance of Guinea West Africa that he was no longer welcome here. The discordant and sad timber of his voice when I delivered the news, were not welcome notes.

Senny is the lead dundun player for Jeh Kulu, an African dance company based in Burlington, Vermont. For almost two decades Jeh Kulu has brought to the U.S. the music and dance of West Africa. As a member of Jeh Kulu, Senny held regular dance classes for adults and children, conducted regular workshops and residencies for local elementary schools and high school schools, taught at universities around the country, and performed regularly for audiences of every type.

On the books at least, our laws recognize the importance of bringing to our shores the sounds and culturally unique talents of others beyond our shores. Without their influence, classically American forms of music such as jazz dance and Zydco would not exist. The P-3 visa category was created for just this purpose, to insure that we continue to evolve and grow through the infusion of the talents of those that are different. Yet sadly, despite the fact that our laws recognize the importance of this mission, those administering them do not.

Senny went home in January to visit his parents and children and to learn new moves and music so that he could bring them back to the American public to continue sharing with it the beauty of his culture.  His application to extend his status in the U.S. was approved by the USCIS. It recognized the important role that he has and continues to play in the U.S. However, when he applied for his visa so that he could return he was told that he had been here too long and thus, they didn’t think he would return to Guinea. Ironically, this finding was made despite the fact that Senny had returned to Guinea to engage in activities that in and of themselves show that his ties to his home country remain as strong as ever.

Senny never violated his status while in the U.S.  He did only what he was authorized to do, that is bring to the U.S. the uniqueness of his culture by performing and teaching regularly and sharing with us something that we would not have access to without him. Senny’s costumes and instruments remain in the U.S., however, they have been silenced. Not me. Today I can’t help but sing the following for Senny and the hundreds of artists and entertainers who are refused entry to our country:

A long, long time ago
I can still remember how that music used to
Make me smile
And I knew if he had the chance
That he would teach our people dance
And they would be happy all the while
But February made me shiver
With the decision DOS delivered
Bad news at the Consulate
Made sure he’d dance not one more step
I do remember that I cried
When he told me his visa’d been denied
This damned thing touched me deep inside
(it was) the day his music died


It’s All About Enforcement

Enforcement. It is the current catch-word of the presidential race. I hear it every day. Governor Perry said it in last night’s debate. “I believe in enforcement. We must enforce the laws as they are on the books.” I agree with him. Bet you never thought you’d hear me say that. But yes, I agree. The laws must be enforced. All of them. Not just those that exclude. Those that include must be enforced as well.

Enforcing the law means approving applications submitted by qualified applicants. It means promoting investment in the U.S. and encouraging entrepreneurs, medical professionals, artists and entertainers, and students to share their talents with us.

Our laws say that applications are to be decided favorably when they meet the legal criteria of a preponderance of evidence. That is, that an applicant has shown that it is more likely than not that he or she qualifies for the status they are seeking.

I spent the last two weekends responding to an absurd request for additional evidence in connection with an application for L-1 Intracompany Transferee status. It is a category created to encourage and assist companies that exist both in the U.S. and abroad to work freely and smoothly with each other. Our economy needs it. The global economy needs it. Our laws sanction and provide for it. Sadly, those are the laws that are not being enforced.

Friday I had to tell a company with 31 subsidiaries on five continents who opened its fourth U.S. major manufacturing facility that the employee it wants to transfer to the U.S. to assist with the development of the new facility, and who has been employed by a subsidiary outside of the U.S. since 1962, doesn’t, in the eyes of our government, possess specialized knowledge about the company.

The company doesn’t understand why the press releases, newspaper articles, company letters, and performance evaluations we submitted did not show that it was more likely than not that the employee had specialized knowledge about the company. Neither do I.

They don’t understand how the government’s request that we provide and account for every single percent of the employee’s time spent in each of his duties over the past 40 years is what is necessary to meet the preponderance of the evidence standard. Me either.

They also don’t understand how the company’s audited public annual report, which shows the existence and ownership of the company’s affiliates as well as their financial status doesn’t prove that there is relationship between the companies. Even when there is an additional certification to state that nothing has changed since the filing of the annual report. It’s inconceivable.

Yes, I favor enforcement. Enforcement of the laws that permit people to come here when they are qualified, that encourage the growth of business, that keep families together, that make us the nation who offered to take the tired, sick and hungry. When we enforce the laws that include the need to enforce those that exclude will lessen. Think about it. Give it a shot. Clearly concentrating on enforcing only those that exclude has not solved anything.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Don’t worry, be happy. The elevator played it each and every time we reached the lobby floor of the AILA National Fall conference hotel. I consider it the theme song for this year’s conference. How apropos. Despite the fact that our conversations and panels were dominated by the fact that adjudications by USCIS, DOS and CBP have never been tougher, we banded together and taxed our brains to devise solutions to make things better. Truth be told, yes I am worried, but our unity, creative ideas, and resolve made me happy.

Our location played a part in this. In addition to the educational programs offered, every AILA conference that I have attended has something that stands out as particularly memorable.

For example, I vividly remember wading through flash floods in the middle of the day in New Orleans, whales interrupting a BOG meeting in Hawaii, elevators that never came in San Francisco, and sheer panic in the eyes of 2,500 immigration attorneys in Orlando when the visa numbers suddenly went current.

This year’s memory will definitely be the conference’s location – The Curtis Hotel. It is a themed retro hotel where the elevators speak, the bathroom stalls bear double entendres that can’t help but make you blush or laugh and, where every floor is themed.

I got off the elevator on my floor the first day after flying for hours and was a bit stunned to hear it say out loud “one hit wonders.” At first I thought I was being insulted. However, as I walked to my room I passed a mirror that said “I’m too sexy for my shirt” and along the corridor there were posters of the songs Disco Duck and Kung Foo Fighting.

There were also plexiglass boxes holding real Billy Beer with actual pull tabs and a herd of Pet Rocks. Too bad they didn’t have Klick Klacks. Anyone remember those? Solid acrylic hard balls held together by a string that you waved around to smash each other. Great fun till children bonked themselves in the head full speed and got seriously injured. If only I had been a plaintiff’s products liability attorney at the time.

Other floors in the hotel – chick flicks, horror movies, famous couples, and classic tv comedy just to name a few. Truth be told, I rode the elevators just to discover the secret of each floor. Ok, Eloise-like was I and it was more fun than the Plaza.

Even the gift area (you always have to check out the hotel shop) did not have the usual array of fake watches, scarves, and t-shirts. Instead, it had retro toys and candy. I had to buy the paper button dots. Sadly, they did not have those little waxy bottles with a thimble full of colored water. I used to love those.

Our panels and meetings were held in rooms entitled “Peek-a-Boo” and “Duck, Duck, Goose.” Absolutely fitting venues for discussing respectively FDNS site visits and L-1B kitchen sink RFEs.

When you got off the elevator on the conference room floor you heard children playing the swimming pool game Marco Polo. I couldn’t help but think: Lucky for him that he ended up in Asia since if he had landed here he clearly would not have been able to prove his intent to return home, that he wasn’t intending to “work” or that the new fangled pasta-ish thing he discovered and wanted to import would produce enough revenue within one year to be substantial.

While it all sounds terribly kitsch and over the top, it worked because the hotel doesn’t take itself seriously. Frankly, I think it fostered our productiveness since it offset the seriousness of our discussions and purpose. Laughter is truly the best medicine.

It was a great conference. In the face of adversity we were productive, received the best continuing education possible and even managed to giggle.

Thank you to our Colorado Chapter for choosing wisely, AILA National for making it so, and everyone who attended and generously shared their knowledge and sense of humor.