A genius in his own mind, a chip off the old block, and a trusted foil for me perhaps. Like George Costanza (do I have to mention Seinfeld?), I somehow found my way serendipitously working for AILA and serving as its first Director of Federal Litigation. See Costanza – Yankees Employment, New York, New York (1992). And like George, I am walking off after hitting the high note.
We all want to be as cool as Jerry, but George is the most honest example to describe how I think about my time at AILA. But, like all foils, the comparison fails to describe my values and the value of litigation for the AILA community. In 2017, we lived through an epic onslaught of an already broken immigration system. Solutions seemed far off and insufficient. AILA, and the creativity of its leadership, came together and created the Administrative Litigation Task Force (only an attorney could dream up a name so ambiguous!). The purpose of the ALTF was to utilize the federal court system to delay or reverse the barrage of unlawful immigration haymakers Trump and his minions threw our way daily, or at least every Friday. AILA attorneys and the ALTF began suing and never stopped. Remember that unlawful presence memorandum – yes, we fixed that (thanks Ron!). Through our early successes, AILA recognized the need to employ a full-time litigator to encourage and educate members while engaging in high-impact litigation.
Like Elaine Benes, I danced my way into AILA. My service began in September 2019, and we began suing immediately. Healthcare Insurance Proclamation, Public Charge, Immigrant Ban, Nonimmigrant Ban, USCIS Fee Rule, H-4/L-2 Delays, H-1B Specialty Occupation, No Visa Policy, DV2020, AOS EAD delays. I played on a team of 16,000 and I am forever grateful. We developed new partnerships with leading law firms and non-profit organizations and strengthened our bond with the litigation team at the Council. We never gave up and never gave in. We now have “AILA-gators” nationwide who skillfully use litigation to win for their client and takedown unlawful policies. At the end of the day, isn’t that what we all want? Well, we want immigration reform, but let us cherish what we have gained – the power and influence to fight for what is right one lawsuit at a time. May you all celebrate a safe and healthy Festivus for the rest-of-us.
Cheers to AILA’s litigious future. Be good!
*** Editors’ Note: Jesse, we will miss you terribly. Thank you for all the incredible work, the friendly conversations, and most of all the strength and brilliance you brought to AILA. You seemed to work ‘round the clock, the complete opposite of any napping under a desk…thank you for everything.