Wouldn’t it be great if the networks spiced up the immigration debate with folks who actually knew something about immigration? For example a lawyer who has represented US companies that sponsor critical scientists and professionals. Or an attorney who fights for families threatened with deportation.
I think it would fantastic. And so does my colleague Eleanor Pelta. So we made our way to New York City, and spent two days crisscrossing Manhattan, meeting with producers, reporters, and editorial writers to make it happen. The trip was our way of touching base with some of our trusted contacts in the media and also introducing ourselves, and the association, to new faces.
Our message was simple: nobody knows this issue and can speak or write with more passion and legitimacy than AILA lawyers. We work in the trenches of a dysfunctional immigration system. Who better to talk about it?
We were joined by AILA communications director George Tzamaras and Jenny Werwa, AILA’s manager of outreach and communications. They put together an aggressive schedule, partly designed, I believe, to test the limits of our physical endurance. We were also aided by our driver George, a Serbian immigrant whom we believe qualified for EB-1 based on his extraordinary ability in acceleration and miraculously winding his way through the constant tangle of Manhattan traffic.
Eleanor started the tour on Tuesday by meeting with a new contact, Omesh Seemangal, managing legal analyst and managing editor at Bloomberg Law-Immigration law. They discussed a variety of cutting edge issues ranging from business immigration to enforcement and border security. The meeting was very productive and resulted in an invitation to AILA to contribute a 2000 word article to Bloomberg Law’s monthly newsletter.
Next Eleanor hurried over to Time Magazine to meet another new and influential contact, Julie Rawe who is Time’s senior education editor. As you might expect, the discussion focused on the DREAM Act, with Eleanor explaining how its enactment would be a “win-win” for America. What else can you say about a bill which gives innocent kids a pathway to citizenship in exchange for finishing school and serving in America’s uniformed services?
Early Wednesday morning the sound of the alarm rudely reminded me that sleep was not high on the media tour “to do” list. We started with an early morning breakfast meeting with Lauren Pearle, associate producer at ABC News. This meeting was a terrific chance to reconnect with Lauren face to face after many months of just talking on the phone and over email. We met at a small café not far from ABC News near Columbus circle with wonderful croissants and (much needed) strong coffee. I emphasized to Lauren how critical it is that the American public understand how the broken immigration system hurts all of us; and how comprehensive immigration reform will help jump start the economy increasing the wages of all US workers. I also pointed out that the public has a vital interest in understanding the dangers of the unauthorized practice of immigration law, how prevalent it is, and how UPL predators devastate the lives of immigrants and US citizens alike and cost the taxpayers millions of dollars.
We then rushed back to Midtown for a midmorning meeting with Lawrence Downes, of the New York Times editorial board. We haven’t sat down with him in about a year and the timing of this reunion could not have been better. Downes listened carefully for more than an hour as we offered our perspective on the election, the opportunities and challenges faced by the House Republican leadership as it prepares to take the reins of power, and the prospects for immigration reform in the final two years of the President Obama’s first term. (Resulting in an editorial that appeared yesterday in The New York Times)
Next was a lunch meeting with Kiran Khalid, a producer at CNN. Kirin was first introduced to AILA and our legislative issues several years ago when she helped produce a video news release that we created about due process reform. During this catch up, I made the case to Kiran that AILA’s immigration experts are second to none when it comes to transforming complicated immigration issues into plain English. AILA has a deep bench of experts, and can offer spokespeople on all aspects of immigration law and policy. If an immigration piece is going to have substance, I emphasized, AILA needs to be part of the package.
Then it was time for MSNBC at 30 Rock. We met with Tammy Caputo, senior producer for the Dylan Ratigan show. Tammy was interested in a wide variety of immigration issues; particularly those that have dominated the news over the past 6 months, such as Arizona’s SB 1070, the leaked CIS memos, and birthright citizenship.
As the sun began to descend toward the horizon we ended the day with a quick trip over to the New York Daily News to meet with columnist Albor Ruiz. He has written extensively about immigration and we talked about a wide range of issues.
Over the past several years the electronic and print media has increasingly turned to AILA spokespeople for comment, background, and expertise. Eleanor, George, Jenny and I went to New York to ensure that this important trend continues to grow. After all, AILA, with its unmatched expertise in immigration law and policy, is central to the debate.