Welcome to a complex world. A world in which the President of the United States has to intervene to allow in a group of girls from Afghanistan seeking to participate in an international robotics competition. A world in which two French kids were detained and returned to France, unaware of the fact that a tourist visa was not the proper visa to come to the U.S. to learn about organic farming. A world in which a Holocaust historian was detained for hours at an airport without access to an attorney. A world in which an Administration focused on job creation is blocking foreign entrepreneurs with investments in hand from coming to the U.S. and starting businesses. A world where, unless ordered by a court, the Administration is unwilling to accept that grandparents are close enough family for nationals of six Muslim majority countries to be exempt from the travel ban.
Welcome to immigration law in the U.S. The impact of our immigration laws reaches around the world. From tourists to businesses, families to asylum seekers, almost everyone knows someone who has run into a previously unknown obstacle in U.S. immigration law.
While the effects of our outdated immigration laws are getting more attention than ever before, our laws actually haven’t changed since Donald Trump took office. Despite repeated bipartisan efforts to reform our immigration laws, most recently in 2013, despite all the statistics and reports confirming that we are literally throwing hundreds of billions of dollars away in economic growth, Congress has been unable to pass any meaningful immigration legislation in this century.
What has changed, however, is the attention given to immigration and the context in which it is discussed. Through his reckless administration of immigration laws and policies, President Trump has brought to the forefront the many confounding aspects of the dysfunctional system we have. What we have right now is a system that has not been reformed since before the personal computer, the internet, and the global economy. A system that was designed largely for a paper-based, brick-and-mortar-based economy. A system patched together when baby boomers were first entering the workforce and when the life expectancy was a full five years less than it is now.
Immigration lawyers are becoming immune to reading about unfettered discretion, arbitrary and non-reviewable decisions being made at borders, consular posts, service centers and district offices; as these are becoming everyday occurrences in our practices. What is surprising and what gives hope is that more and more Americans are able to see how our system operates and may be more inclined to pressure members of Congress to act and pass common sense immigration reform. Immigration has the attention of the public. We can keep up the momentum by sharing stories, by writing op-eds, calling reporters, visiting congressional offices, working with community groups, and penning blog posts. The more we can share our experiences and expertise and expose the system, the closer we will be to a real review and reform of our outdated immigration laws.