A New Challenge for AILA and the Communities We Serve
We woke up this morning to the news most of us did not expect and many of our clients feared: after one of the most divisive campaigns in modern history that included statements maligning immigrants from Mexico and scapegoating Muslim-Americans, a call for mass deportations and the end of DACA, and a speech in Arizona presenting a wish list of restrictionist policy proposals, Donald Trump has won the election and will become the 45th president of the United States.
All of us are facing calls from anxious clients: from DACA recipients whose hopes for a life with legal status for themselves and their families in the United States appear to be dimming, from relatives who fear their family members may be removed or forever barred from coming, from business leaders who are less confident that America’s immigration system will support economic growth, and from employees on work visas who fear losing all they have built in the United States. We must remember that whatever personal anxieties we may have about what the next few years will bring are dwarfed by the fears and anxieties of our clients and the immigrant population.
For more than 70 years, AILA members have stood alongside our clients, helping them realize the American dream. We are their advocates and their voice, helping them through the tough times. We have been here before: in the McCarthy era, when even a whisper of sympathy to the Communist cause could derail an immigrant’s life in the United States; in 1996 and the years that followed, when the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act wreaked havoc on our nation with severe penalties that had retroactive effect, and jurisdiction stripping provisions that severely curtailed federal court review; and in the dark days after September 11, when we found ourselves up against unexplained adjudication delays, detention without due process, and trials based on secret evidence. Through it all, AILA members have worked tirelessly to secure fairness and justice for those in immigration proceedings of every kind. And this time is no different. AILA will continue to fight for a just and fair system using every tool at our disposal.
It is important to remember, as we look forward to an uncertain future, that we have invaluable and unlimited resources at our disposal: the talents, ingenuity, passion, legal acumen, and persistence of our fellow AILA members. Looking forward, we must continue to support one another as we always have, by coming together for inspiration, to share war stories, and to take every opportunity that we can find to advocate for fair and just treatment for immigrants. Together we must carry this message of unity and perseverance to the immigration agencies, to Congress, and to the courts.
We look forward to meeting these challenges together with all of you.
Benjamin Johnson, AILA Executive Director