Each year, AILA members come to D.C. to advocate for smart, fair, and just immigration law reforms, asking Congress to step up and effect change through legislation and holding agencies accountable.
This year is…different. As with so many things during the pandemic, National Day of Action had to be rethought. This year, we’ve gone virtual.
As we prep for next week’s busy day of online meetings with congressional offices, we asked some of the more than 700 AILA members joining us for NDA virtually to share their perspective about what Congress needs to do. Here are their insights:
“The new Congress and administration have a mandate not only to undo the harmful and inhumane immigration policies of the Trump era, but also to envision an entirely new approach to immigration. We need quick and decisive action to reverse the hundreds of rules and policies that, among other things, decimated our asylum system and needlessly tore apart families through punitive detention and removal policies. And we now have a real opportunity to reform the immigration court system, refocus U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services back to its core mission, and create a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented people, many of whom have toiled to provide essential services and keep us all safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Let’s not let this moment go to waste.” – Emily Brown, Ohio Chapter
“I anticipate that engaging with Senator Warnock and Senator Ossoff’s offices will be unlike meetings with our prior Senators. Although those relationships were always cordial, our newest Senators have expressed a desire to work with and for immigrants and the immigrant community. They aren’t focused on enforcement-only issues and we have a real chance to engage in thoughtful and impactful conversation. I am looking forward to hearing from them and all of our elected officials on how we can hold our immigration agencies accountable to our clients, to other stakeholders, and to the American taxpayer.” – Tracie Klinke, Georgia-Alabama Chapter
“This year, I want to highlight the problems that have been haunting the agencies, such as backlogs or an inability to communicate with USCIS. There is a human cost when the agencies put yet another case in the queue to nowhere or uses an extremely rigid phone tree that dissuades people from obtaining service.” – Stella Shimamoto, Hawaii Chapter
“This year’s virtual NDA is more important than ever. We have a real chance at passing long overdue immigration reform, either through piecemeal legislation or comprehensively. Congress also needs to hold USCIS accountable for the terrible delays in processing even the simplest of cases, so I will make sure our delegates know the severe impact these delays have on real people’s lives. We also need Congress’ help in making immigration courts independent, Article I courts to ensure that those seeking asylum or other relief in our immigration courts have full and fair hearings. Engaging with Congress on all these and more is why I’m participating in NDA this year!” – Shannon Shepherd, Chicago Chapter
“I am participating in NDA again this year because I truly believe that immigration is what made this country great and that immigration will continue to be a huge benefit for this nation. I am also participating because our immigration system needs significant work and I am excited about the future and what we can accomplish for immigrants and our country!” – Chris Christensen, Idaho Chapter
“I am participating in AILA’s National Day of Action because I believe that without smart reform, our outdated immigration system will continue to weaken our county. As an immigration attorney I understand the complexities of our current system and can share personal stories of immigrants and the business that employ them. I understand the flaws and have solutions. I can’t think of a better way to shape future immigration legislation.” – Nicole Murad, Colorado Chapter
“Virtual NDA in 2021 gives AILA members across the nation an easy and convenient way to bring immigration injustice to the attention of the people who can make change. This year, with more members participating, we will make an impact with our voices and demand that Congress start dismantling the invisible wall built by the last administration. We will advocate for embracing those seeking refuge in the U.S., building the nation that recognizes the contributions and strengths of immigrants and providing a path, no, a highway, to citizenship.” – Angela J. Ferguson, Missouri/Kansas Chapter
“I am hopeful that the new administration will bring back a sense of our nation as one built on the hopes, dreams and achievements of immigrants. While the Biden administration has already been implementing a lot of positive changes in restoring fairness and transparency after the prior administration’s anti-immigrant stance, we have a lot to do on the state level. Iowa used to be one of the most welcoming, pro-immigrant states in our nation and is the home of large refugee communities including having one of the most active Burmese and Congolese communities in the country. We must be cautious not to betray that important legacy in the remaining anti-immigrant rhetoric.” – Gunda Brost, Iowa/Nebraska Chapter
“I am participating because I believe there is some common ground to find to push for meaningful, positive changes in the immigration context. I hope that in meeting with representatives on both sides of the aisle, I can find some consensus on areas where they both agree and hopefully can push for them both to work on legislation toward those ends.” – Teddy Chadwick, Wisconsin Chapter
“It is important to engage with our US Representatives and Senators to advocate for fair and commonsense immigration reform; to continue to remind our elected officials of the importance of finding solutions that we have been seeking for decades. I am doing my part by contributing my time and efforts to support and make a difference on behalf of my clients, the immigration bar and the community as a whole as we help drive immigration into current times.” – Christine Alden, South Florida Chapter