Author: Crystal Williams

There’s Something Happening Here

I haven’t heard immigration lawyers called heroes many times before (though I know a lot who are). And I’m pretty sure it’s the first time I’ve ever heard it from a sitting member of Congress. But that’s what happened Thursday when Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) said that AILA member Dree Collopy and the other Artesia volunteer lawyers were his heroes. Congressman O’Rourke shares a cause that drives AILA: ending family detention. In Washington, D.C., there is momentum building to accomplish something AILA members have known with every fiber of their being needs to happen. We’ve known family detention was wrong from the first days in Artesia when the only thing stopping the rapid deportation of children and their mothers back to danger seemed to be the pro bono attorneys arguing for fundamental rights to be upheld. After months in the trenches at Artesia, the battle shifted to the new facility at Dilley and the expansions of Karnes and Berks. On each battlefield, the volunteer attorneys, law students, paralegals, legal assistants, and translators were joined by mental health professionals, religious leaders, and others – volunteering their time to fight injustice no matter what barren piece of the landscape into which the Administration expanded its detention facilities. AILA members outside of D.C. may sometimes feel like they are one step removed from the action, that the conversations here are different from...

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Traitor? Not So Much.

I was called a traitor, twice, in less than an hour today. It’s not the first time in my role as AILA’s Executive Director that I’ve been called that, but it still offends. The fallacies about immigrants, about the undocumented, about our borders and our government’s actions continue to linger. This time it was on C-Span’s Washington Journal. The callers were cut off when they spit out the accusation, but I tried to honestly answer their questions while inside I was yelling “HOW DARE YOU?” I’m not a traitor when I ask our Congress to pass good immigration reform, actual legislation that would fix the broken system and address the undocumented already here. I’m not a traitor when I acknowledge that the millions of people already in the United States, already building lives here, paying taxes and working, need a way out of the shadows, away from fear, and into the light. I’m not a traitor when I read studies modeling the economic impact of giving work authorization to those who apply for DACA and DAPA that show it will in fact help the economy. I’m not a traitor when I think having people come forward for DACA and DAPA will actually help our country prioritize enforcement on those who actually pose a potential risk to public safety. I’m not a traitor when I think that a U.S. citizen...

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Every morning I wake up and check my schedule for the day. As has happened once a year, every year for the past 12 years, on this particular morning, there was a kick in the gut when I saw the date. September 11. I know I’m not alone. I know that the rest of America feels that kick too. And many of us see the replay in our minds—either from television or, if you lived in NY or DC at the time, the actual sights, sounds and smells of the day and its aftermath. So I came into the office and said, we should observe this day somehow. We should never forget. But my office is AILA—the American IMMIGRATION Lawyers Association. One of the things we’ve learned in the past 12 years is that, despite the way that 9/11 was exploited for anti-immigration purposes, curtailing immigration is not the way to stop further attacks. So, perhaps AILA should not observe this day, since our speaking up might somehow imply that 9/11 was related to immigration? But then, I thought, wait. We are the AMERICAN Immigration Lawyers Association. 9/11 is something that happened to America. To citizens, permanent residents, temporary residents, visitors, and aspiring citizens. We share this experience. We share the grief for those we lost. We share the pride in the first responders who went toward the danger,...

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On Tap for Tuesday’s Hearing: Nonimmigrant Visas

After working its way through 32 amendments related to border triggers and the rest of Title I at their markup last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee is going to jump ahead on Tuesday to Title IV, which has a mixed bag of nonimmigrant provisions for business immigration. These provisions came after what seemed like eons of negotiation between labor and business, so many of them may be considered “core” to the “Gang of Eight” bill and therefore the four members of the Gang that sit on the Judiciary Committee could vote en bloc to prevent any big changes that might endanger those compromises. So what’s in there? Here’s a small sample: The Temporary Visa for Lesser-Skilled Workers (W visa) addresses one of the most obvious shortcomings in previous immigration reform—future flow.  One vital component is that spouses and minor children are included and are work-authorized, providing much-needed family unity for those seeking to come to the U.S. temporarily to work.  It also importantly offers flexibility for workers by allowing them to switch from one registered employer to another, and by giving them a way to apply for the merit-based lawful permanent residence program or the employment-based system.  These elements mean that workers wouldn’t be potentially “trapped” in exploitative employment. The drafters of the legislation are taking the slow road with the W visa by starting with a 20,000 cap...

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Change? Yikes!

“If we don’t change direction soon, we’ll end up where we’re going.”-Professor Irwin Corey We’ve been hearing about it for a while now.  We at first thought, oh no, what if it happens? Will everything change? Will I have to learn a new system? What among my assumptions will have to be thrown out?  “What we call ‘Progress’ is the exchange of one nuisance for another nuisance.”-HavelockEllis Then we stopped hearing so much about it. So we thought, nah, nothing is going to change. Yes, the system is a mess, but it’s our mess. We know and have learned to live with it. Face it, we all hate change.  We may pretend otherwise, but having to learn something new, and figure out a new set of workarounds for the inevitable issues and a new way of addressing things we haven’t thought about in years, is daunting.  We don’t want it.  “The only sense that is common in the long run, is the sense of change-and we all instinctively avoid it.”-E.B. White But now we know it’s coming. In fact, the first piece of it is here.  It was called Transformation when it was being discussed in the abstract.  But now it’s real, and it’s called  ELIS – the Electronic Immigration System.  It’s USCIS’ new system for receiving and processing applications and petitions, and it’s going to change the way...

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