Even as the Trump Administration gasps its last dying breaths, Trump, Miller, and the anti-immigrant right continue to push for last-minute regulatory changes as a way to end immigration to the United States. While many of us are confident that the incoming Biden Administration will work to undo these new regulations if they are enacted, the unfortunate truth is that they could affect thousands of our clients in the meantime. That’s why it’s up to us as immigration practitioners to push back, by commenting on proposed rules that could harm our clients. And hopefully, under the coming administration, we’ll turn to commenting on proposed rules that could help our clients instead.
Commenting is vital for so many reasons. First, it allows us, as representatives of our clients, to offer a perspective that the government (at least under the Trump Administration) likely did not consider when crafting these regulations: that of the immigrants who will be affected. It also allows us to offer our own unique perspectives on how the proposed regulations can affect the practice of immigration law. Commenting creates an opportunity to ensure that those who will be affected by the regulation will also be heard.
Second, commenting gives us an opportunity to ensure that the government truly gives full consideration to the effects of the regulation. As AILA notes in their “click to comment” campaign, the government must address unique comments individually. Thus, if enough of us submit individualized comments, the government will be forced to slow down and consider everything we have to say. It prevents the rushed implementation of regulations that could otherwise cause irreparable harm to our clients.
Third, commenting can help us build up our practices by demonstrating our expertise in matters that affect our clients. Comments on proposed regulations are made public, so immigration attorneys who note their profession in their comment have an opportunity to share the fact that they have specialized knowledge. By commenting, others in the immigration law sphere may become aware of the commenter’s expertise and may in turn refer clients or otherwise seek to build intracommunity relationships.
Fourth, commenting can allow us to let out some of the frustration that has built up with regard to our immigration system. We are given precious few ways to express our displeasure with the government over regulations that have harmed our wellbeing and that of our clients. This is an opportunity to “scream into the void,” but in a far more positive way, because the void actually has to review what we’re screaming and consider it before finalizing the regulation.
Finally, we continue to hope that, under the Biden Administration, we’ll be commenting on far more positive regulations. But even then, commenting will remain important. It will be up to us, as the experts, to ensure that President Biden does everything in his power to undo the harm of the last four years. We will have the opportunity to encourage the government to not only set things right, but to improve the situation for immigrants. By being vocal about the things we approve of, we can ensure that the Biden Administration consistently moves in the right direction on immigration matters.
With all of that in mind, I would encourage all of my colleagues to make time for commenting whenever a new regulation is proposed that could affect our clients or us. We can let off steam, protect our clients’ interests, and work to ensure justice, just by writing up our thoughts and sharing them with the government. AILA’s “click to comment” campaigns make it easier than ever, so I hope that everyone will get involved.