Rage Against the Extreme

Author: on November 23, 2016


shutterstock_138193775Remember the days when reasonable people could sit down and rationally discuss opposing views on immigration policy or other issues? The dividing line tended to fall along things like, “How workable is E-verify?” or “What is a crime involving moral turpitude?” or “What is a reasonable wage floor for H-1B visas?” Debate might get animated, and you might end up agreeing to disagree, but at least people tended to avoid unabashedly racist language .

The discourse has changed. Within the past few months, we have heard the now-president-elect denigrate immigrants, insult prisoners of war, and offend an entire faith in the broadest strokes. Within the past week, we have seen the Trump transition team offer prominent positions to people who have referred to Muslims as a cancer, or who are associated with groups that freely throw around terms like “renegade Jew” and “turban toppers.” And just in the past few days, on a major network, we tuned in to hear a prominent Trump fundraiser flippantly refer to the internment of Japanese Americans as precedent for a proposed Muslim registry.

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The World is Watching

Author: on November 21, 2016


shutterstock_81287065By now, it is no longer a surprise to learn that many immigration lawyers, and the clients they serve, live in certain “hostile jurisdictions,” where it is almost impossible to win an asylum case no matter the facts. In places like Atlanta, Georgia, and Charlotte, North Carolina, people seeking asylum, and the attorneys fighting for them, know they are likely going to lose no matter how strong the case, or how real the fear. Going into this kind of battle expecting to lose takes a special type of courage, and a lot of support, because as a lawyer, you know that no matter how well prepared you are, no matter how much you think the law is on your side, the deck is still stacked against you.

But the deck shouldn’t be stacked against anyone because immigration law in the United States is, after all, federal law, and as such should be applied uniformly, from California to Georgia and from New York to Florida. An asylum claim presented in a court in California should be evaluated under the same law and have the same chances of approval as an asylum claim in Georgia or North Carolina. But AILA members know that this is simply not the case. We know that, no matter the facts, the claim of an asylum seeker in a hostile jurisdiction like Georgia or North Carolina is not evaluated under the same standards as asylum seekers in the rest of the United States.

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Where Does Family Detention Stand Now?

Author: on November 15, 2016


shutterstock_315356267During the contentious presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton’s immigration platform included a promise to end the detention of immigrant families, while President-elect Donald Trump has never specifically addressed the issue of family detention at all. Instead, Trump’s website broadly states that anyone who “illegally crosses the border will be detained until they are removed out of our country.” And given Trump’s other pronouncements about immigration—including his vows to ban the admission of Muslims, deport millions, repeal DACA, and build a wall along our southern border—it seems safe to assume that family detention will not only continue but could potentially expand in the Trump Administration. So with this in mind, allow me to share just a few of the stories I have heard from detained women about why they made the difficult choice to flee to the United States with their children. I know I’m preaching to the choir in this forum, but we must remember that in addition to the big-picture reasons why family detention is bad policy, the personal stories of women and babies in jail make it crystal clear how wrong it is.

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Avoiding a Practice-Attack

Author: on November 14, 2016


shutterstock_494093176Solo practitioners and small law offices know that understanding the law and knowing where to find the law is only 50% of practice.  The lawyer must also be the marketer, the paralegal, the accountant, the auditor, and the customer service representative, all of which involve skills that are not taught at most law schools.  When these administrative tasks impact an attorney’s ability to provide quality services, that business is having a “practice-attack.”

When I started my practice five years ago, I needed to first find resources and mentors to help me establish a solid foundation upon which my (hopefully) wildly successful practice would be built. What I discovered, though, is that you don’t just need to think about the administrative and operational side of things when you start; it’s a continuing requirement for a solo practitioner. And as my practice continues to grow, in addition to being on top of the most recent policy updates, I also need to ensure I’m on the cutting edge of technology and business procedures.

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The American People Have Elected the 45th President

Author: on November 9, 2016


shutterstock_106049390We, the American people, have elected our 45th president. Today, as we all go on with our daily routines, a new era is beginning. Today we must search deep within and find a renewed commitment to our nation, to unity, and to the belief in the wisdom of our founding fathers who established our nation and our system of governance in the name of freedom and democracy. Though the political debate surrounding immigration has always been contentious, the presidential campaign revealed a divisive and ugly rhetoric unbefitting our country.

As a woman, an immigrant, a former asylee, an immigration attorney, and a proud U.S. citizen, I feel the election boils down to one clear fact: that we must continue to work towards acceptance and inclusion because within our borders, our citizens feel excluded. We must figure out a way to address that while highlighting the ways in which the values our forefathers held to be true continue to define America as a nation.

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American Parents Overseas Should be Treated Equally

Author: on November 8, 2016


shutterstock_334793393The Supreme Court on November 9, 2016, will hear arguments in Lynch v. Morales-Santana, a case in which AILA submitted an Amicus Brief, along with the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) and Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.  The case, which will address and better define how citizenship passes to children born to Americans overseas, has the potential to affect numerous children by eliminating current distinctions based on the biological sex of an unwed U.S. citizen parent.

In Morales-Santana, the Second Circuit ruled that the petitioner, who was born out of wedlock to a U.S. citizen father and a non-U.S. citizen mother, should not have been treated differently as to the status of his citizenship under the equal-protection clause of the Fifth Amendment, reversing a lower court ruling.  If the Supreme Court upholds the Second Circuit’s decision, the Court will create equality under the law for children born to an unwed U.S. citizen parent, regardless of the parent’s gender.

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Don’t Cry, Mommy

Author: on November 7, 2016


shutterstock_337787162After going through security, placing my phone in the locker outside the facility, and relinquishing my driver’s license in exchange for a one-day entry badge, I entered the trailer excited and anxious. As a business immigration attorney, though I was outside my comfort zone, I was ready for a new and meaningful experience.

Day one was a blur as I met with as many women as possible over the next ten hours to prepare them for their credible fear interviews. The women shared grueling stories of gang threats and domestic violence. Throughout the day, I learned a lot and became more comfortable with the process. Since I don’t speak Spanish, I looked between my colleague who was translating and the women with empathy. I regretted not being able to communicate verbally. I saw tears in the women’s eyes as they communicated with my Spanish-speaking colleague and wondered if it was normal to feel somewhat disconnected from the clearly emotional experience.

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Profiting Off Trauma

Author: on October 28, 2016


shutterstock_373634620Last year, I spent a week as a volunteer attorney with the CARA Project at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, which is run by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). Although the government calls it a “residential center,” it is, of course, a prison that detains thousands of women and children who are fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries. On my first day at the prison, I found many things jarring – the baby strollers lined up in a row, the infants crying in their mothers’ arms, the children playing in what is essentially a prison yard surrounded by a high metal fence. But what was perhaps most shocking to me was what is prominently displayed when you first walk through the front door: a whiteboard noting CCA’s closing stock price from the previous day.

CCA is the largest for-profit prison company in the United States. The prison at Dilley reminds all visitors in that first instant that incarcerating women and children here is a business that is traded on an international market: CCA profits substantially from detaining vulnerable asylum seekers, and lobbies Congress so that it can detain more families and make more money. It is a vicious and inhumane cycle.

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When Will They Listen?

Author: on October 27, 2016


shutterstock_473539426Family detention is wrong. The mass incarceration and detention of asylum seekers is wrong. The detention of immigrants who are not flight risks and pose no danger to community or national safety is wrong. It’s not just me saying it, or just AILA saying it, or even churches, community groups, NGOs, and Congressional Members. Now, the United Nations is saying it as well.

This week, the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention completed a two-week visit to the U.S. I hadn’t realized there was a working group on arbitrary detention until this working group geared up to visit, but given the abuse of the detention mechanism around the world, I am heartened to know the subject is being tracked and investigated by the U.N. However, I am embarrassed for our country that the need existed to examine what the U.S. government has been doing.

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California’s TRUTH Act – Due Process for Immigrants Held in Local Jails

Author: on October 26, 2016


shutterstock_376637839On September 28, 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the TRUTH Act  which protects immigrant communities against harsh immigration enforcement practices. With this law, California becomes the first state to require immigrants be told of their right to an attorney before being interviewed by federal immigration authorities while in custody. The TRUTH Act responds to the growing concern that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s “Priority Enforcement Program” (PEP) and similar initiatives are replicating the failures of the former Secure Communities initiative—a program that was ultimately condemned after separating tens of thousands of families across the state of California and damaging public safety.

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