A year ago I began my journey as AILA President with a speech at our annual conference in Vancouver. I focused my words on five principles in which I believe, God, Family, the Constitution, Service, and Litigation. Today is my last day as AILA President. As I reflect on the last year, I see that it was my belief in these five principles which carried me through what has been an amazingly difficult year.
From the death of our dear friend Steve Fischel at last year’s annual conference, to an economic disaster that started in the fall and continued through the spring of this year, to an election that has promised change, but which has not yet had time to fulfill all its promise, to strategic planning for our association, to the impending departure of two of AILA’s long time and key leaders, we have seen our fair share of challenges and obstacles.
BUT, we stand at the dawn of a new day. We believe that with the key personnel the Obama administration has begun to put into place at the Department of Justice, USCIS, ICE, CBP, and within the White House that we will see aggressive and positive administrative change and reform. For example, just today we have seen the outrageous Mukasey Compean decision reversed by Attorney General Eric Holder. I believe this action is just the beginning of a restoration of constitutional due process principles for which we have long been clamoring.
We have great hope for this year. We believe that with the leadership of the White House and key Senators and Congressman that the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Train has begun to travel down the tracks. While we might not always agree with out partners from both sides of the immigration reform aisle on all the aspects of immigration reform, AILA is and will remain a key player to bring the disparate sides of the pro-immigration reform debate together to reach an achievable solution.
We also move forward with faith, believing that the economy will continue to recover (the signs are already there), meaning our practices will once again be active, and AILA will continue to be able to provide the extraordinary member services for which we have long been known.
As we move forward toward an immigration reform package that will help begin solve many of the problems our country faces, the economy, health care, social security solvency, and a myriad of other challenges. By securing our borders, enforcing good and fair immigration laws, providing increased opportunity for legal family and employment based immigration, having a sensible temporary worker program-tied to the economy- to provide for future flow, and a sensible path to residence, with the registration of the undocumented, taxes being paid, and anyone legalizing going to the back of the line, we will achieve a workable immigration system. These key parts of the immigration reform plan are not pie in the sky. They are achievable goals this year.
At the end of my speech last year, I asked AILA members to stand with me to fight injustice and to fight for reform. You did join me. We used aggressive liaison and litigation to send a message this year—we will not stand for outrageous decisions without legal rationale. We will not stand for delays in adjudication. We will not be unwatchful shepherds who sheep are lead to the slaughter. We must continue these litigation efforts this year. But, we also must be proactive. We must focus on what is key–279 votes (218 in the House, 60 in the Senate, and the President. We need your help to reach out to our Congressmen and Senators. We need you to be a voice in the wilderness clamoring for sensible immigration reform. And, we must hold the feet of USCIS to the fire to justly interpret the law.
I leave you in incredible hands. Bernie Wolfsdorf is ready to lead us forward. He has been prepared and brings a unique immigration history to our leadership. I look forward to supporting him as we move forward toward immigration reform.