Some of Hollywood’s most iconic films have featured an “underdog” plot: a protagonist facing impossible odds who proves victorious through greater tenacity and determination. This is certainly a theme our immigrant clients and immigration law practices can relate to, perhaps now more than ever. Consulates are denying strong visa applications, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is issuing more Requests for Evidence (RFE) and denials, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is coming to an end, previously non-priority undocumented immigrants are facing deportation, and border wall prototypes are being erected. As my desk continues to fill up with blue RFEs, I have caught myself thinking: “Is this the new normal? Is this just how things are going to be?”
But today’s immigration challenges shouldn’t stop us from working harder, smarter, and strongly advocating for our client’s rights and benefits. Our foreign national clients are certainly the underdog in the immigration fight, but I firmly believe that we, as AILA lawyers, are their best chance of prevailing.
Over the years, AILA as an organization and many AILA attorneys have helped me solve the latest puzzles immigration officers have come up with to stump me. The most recent widespread business immigration issue has been H-1B Level 1 Requests for Evidence – those RFEs. In short, USCIS is challenging the Petitioner’s selection of a Level 1 (entry level) wage, claiming the position’s duties appear more complex than an entry level position. When the RFEs started rolling in, it was not long before AILA gathered sample RFEs and Denials, released a practice pointer on how to respond, and held a webinar. With all of these sources and compiled information, AILA had done much of my research and work for me. AILA’s tools have time and time again allowed me to work smarter at my job.
A key opportunity to get the latest tactics to help you work smarter is this year’s California Chapters Conference, held in Hollywood, home of many an “underdog makes good” saga. The conference will feature immigration bar “stars” of course, as you’d expect in Hollywood – immigration judges, past AILA Presidents, and subject-matter experts. It features blockbuster panels that will discuss issues on everyone’s desk. The business track has panels discussing those pesky H-1B Level 1 RFEs, Employment-Based AOS interviews, L-1 adjudication trends, and Consular re-adjudications. For Family/Removal, panels include sanctuary city and state updates, motions to suppress, consular processing for family cases, and best practices for defending detained clients. To top it off, there is a panel discussing self-care and mindfulness – I’m hoping it will help me keep my balance and sanity in this environment.
We cannot simply lie down and let our clients get steamrolled, whether they are business clients, family clients, asylum seekers, or anyone else. The plot is thickening in our stories as immigration lawyers, but now is the time for the underdogs (and their trusty attorneys) to band together, take action, and save the day.