AILA Calls for a More Rational and Just Immigration Policy

Thursday, January 22, 2009
George Tzamaras

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) calls upon the new Obama Administration to eschew the harsh, indiscriminate, "enforcement-only" policies of the past 8 years in favor of a more rational and just approach to immigration policy that restores the rule of law and serves America's core economic, security, and humanitarian interests. AILA welcomes this opportunity to work with the new Administration to forge a new path toward a 21st century immigration system that meets the needs of the American people and respects the ideals upon which our country was built.

Over the past few years, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has spent billions of dollars on worksite and home raids and other enforcement efforts designed to arrest and detain as many people as possible without enough regard for capacity, resources, humanitarian concerns or due process. In its zeal to detain and deport as many immigrants as possible, the Bush Administration too often swept up U.S. citizens, lawfully present individuals, crime victims, and vulnerable populations, and put them into detention and deportation proceedings. Immigrant detainees have died in poorly run jails with no medical care, children have been separated from their parents, hard-working and otherwise innocent individuals have been criminally prosecuted, and massive detention operations have precipitated a crisis in jails across the country. In the face of inadequate resources to provide the appropriate legal process for the people caught up in these efforts, the past Administration engaged in far too many efforts to misdirect and intimidate people into abandoning their right to due process.

In its final weeks, the Bush Administration callously announced several new policies designed to further these "enforcement-only" policies: It issued a new regulation regarding the Social Security Administration's issuance of no-match letters that, if implemented, would plunge even more undocumented workers into the detention and deportation system. It issued another regulation that would expand, and make mandatory, the error-ridden "e-verify" electronic employment verification system to all federal contractors. It tried to strip immigrants of any right to be represented by counsel, with a last minute decision by the Attorney General, Matter of Compean, holding that immigrants do not have any right to be represented by a lawyer, and no legal or constitutional right to complain or have a new hearing even if that lawyer's work is defective, fraudulent, or completely absent. And most recently, in Wednesday's Supreme Court hearing in Nken v. Mukasey, the Bush Administration argued that an immigrant should not be allowed to obtain a stay of removal while his or her case is reviewed by a court.

Charles H. Kuck, President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said, "In the waning days of the past Administration, dozens of new regulations, policies and decisions were unveiled that will only exacerbate the current immigration crisis. The Obama Administration urgently needs to do a top to bottom review of Department of Homeland Security policies and quickly develop a strategic new direction that will restore integrity to our immigration system, ensure that basic rights are respected, and promote transparency and accountability."

AILA is confident that the Obama Administration will move forward toward a rational approach to immigration policy by supporting comprehensive immigration reform, and by employing a proportional, fair and targeted approach to enforcement, focusing on national security risks and abusive employers, emphasizing strength over excess, and protecting basic due process rights.


The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 09012263.