National Day of Action (what used to be called “Lobby Day”) is an AILA tradition that goes back a number of years. I’ve participated many times, and each time it is different. Each time I come out heartened by some Congressional visits, disheartened by others, but always feeling a part of something greater and ready to keep fighting for my clients.
One of my clients was directly impacted by my NDA participation a few years ago and I wanted to share that story.
It was back in 2010 when our group met with Rep. Velasquez. It’s unusual to get an appointment with your actual legislator, so most often we meet with one of the legislative aides. But this time it was with the Congressional Member herself.
It was just after the terrible Haiti earthquake. I had a client, a United States Citizen dad, here in New York who was trying to get his newborn child to the US. The child was born and she and mom were released from the hospital one day before the quake hit; the hospital collapsed in the quake the next day.
We had been trying for months to get the birth certificate or some other proof to the US Embassy in Haiti so that we could get the visa issued. Obviously, the embassy was swamped with requests and work related to the quake, which we understood, but there were some incredibly frustrating delays and run around with the Post that lasted for months.
While we were talking to Rep. Velasquez at our meeting, educating her about immigration reform and how important it is to fix the broken system, I happened to mention this case as an example. Suddenly her eyes lit up. She jumped out of her chair and called her aide into our meeting and told him to get my name and number and that she would see what she could do. As soon as I got back to the office the next day I gave the aide the details and file number.
The child was in New York a month later.
This sort of result is the exception, not the rule. These meetings are not to ask for help for individual cases, but to educate and advocate on immigration issues. But I used a concrete example in this meeting to illustrate a point, and got this amazing and exceptional result. No one should come to NDA solely for this purpose, but what a story!
So despite the deadlock in Congress, I will be at NDA this year again, as usual. Because you never know when a comment you make in a meeting can inform a congressional hearing question, even months later. You never know how sharing your card with a legislative assistant can lead to being asked for information when a bill is being drafted. And you never know how an offhand comment can reunite a family.
Written by George Akst, NDA Attendee and AILA Member
To register for NDA 2015, go to Agora and sign up – it’s free!