Jackson Chaney – A Remembrance of an Extraordinary Mentor

By: Leslie A. Holman

Jackson Chaney passed away on August 7, 2012, and with his passing, AILA lost one of its most prolific, dedicated, and colorful members and mentors. Although Jackson only transitioned to the practice of immigration law in the late 1990s (he began practicing law in 1980), within just a few years he became expert in almost all of its areas.

However, it was not just Jackson's expertise that made him remarkable. Rather, it was his willingness to unselfishly share his knowledge and how it was shared. Jackson would not only provide an answer to a question on the Message Center and various other list serves. He typically provided a treatise with cites to statutes, regulations, InfoNet documents, any and all articles that may have been written, and sometimes even not written, on a topic. Also included were explanations of how the law should work and be applied, how it worked in reality and, as an added bonus, he almost always included some commentary that showcased his amazingly clever, wry and occasionally caustic sense of humor and wit. He made us laugh, he made us mad, he made us think, he made us smarter. He brought life to the Message Center.

Jackson was passionate in his pursuit of truth, use of language, and his desire to educate. He was not afraid to state his opinions or to be wrong, although getting him to admit it took work. ;) He cherished debate and often said it was the debate that educated both his readers and him. There is no question he was a tough taskmaster. However, he was just as tough on himself and he demanded the same excellence of himself that he did from others.

Jackson was also passionate in his desire to protect the rights of immigrants, especially those he felt were egregiously wronged by our broken immigration system or a misapplication of the law. He made sure to alert the membership and world to the plight of the Ulghers, the victims of Postville, the raids in Mississippi, and all who were or might become the unfortunate victims of those engaged in the unauthorized practice of law. Again, it was through education that he believed things could and would be changed.

Jackson holds the record for the number of Message Center posts, 7,896, and this does not include his edits to his own posts. If it did, the number would likely double. He would edit most of his posts, sometimes years later, to insure that the information he provided was and remained accurate. Typically, the Message Center was the last thing he read before he slept and the first thing he checked when he woke. He was proud of that and of all those who he said were brave enough to work and post with him. He earned the Sam Williamson Mentor award in 2006 with good reason.

Jackson loved music, philosophy, language, the arts, and most of all, sailing and the sea. Anyone who read his posts knew this. His willingness and bravery in sharing those parts of him resulted in his teaching others not only about the law but about so many things. Many, many, people have questioned Jackson's absence from the Message Center. The fact that his silence was noticed as much as his words is a tribute and demonstration of what he gave and meant to AILA and its members.

During his far too brief life and career as an immigration lawyer Jackson managed to be ever present everywhere (words from one of his favorite Van Morrison songs). His words and postings will insure that he remains that way. They will continue to teach others for years to come. Thus, although he has, in the words of Ishmael, his favorite literary hero, "quietly taken to his ship," he nevertheless will remain with all that knew him and who will become acquainted with him through his posts and educational legacy. Thank you, Jackson, for all that you gave to me and everyone. Your gifts live on and, in them, so do you in our hearts, memories and continued work.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 12081343.