AILA Urges Congress to Create an Immigration System that Lives Up to American Values

Wednesday, March 20, 2013
George Tzamaras or Belle Woods
202-507-7649    -    202-507-7675 -

Washington, DC - The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) commends the Senate Judiciary Committee for holding today's hearing on "Building an Immigration System Worthy of American Values." The hearing offered insight into our country's current patchwork of policies and procedures that serve neither our nation nor the immigrants who want to contribute to our economy and society.

"This hearing offered senators and the American public the chance to hear about how day in and day out, our country's immigration system fails to uphold civil and human rights and ensure due process, equal treatment, and fairness," said AILA President Laura Lichter. She continued, "AILA welcomed the chance for these stories to be heard because they highlight the sad reality that America doesn't have an immigration system worthy of our values."

She continued, "Since 1996, immigration judges have had their authority greatly restricted often tying their hands and forcing them to deport someone who deserves to stay. Someone who committed a minor crime, several years ago, like petty theft may be barred from getting their green card, even if a judge recognizes the injustice of deportation. Another problem is the appalling numbers of people who are put in immigration detention for no good reason. Depriving someone of their liberty should be a last resort, but our laws mandate detention of thousands of people unnecessarily, causing anguish to families and communities. And while Americans believe wholeheartedly that our justice system guarantees access to legal counsel, the truth is that immigrants are routinely forced to defend themselves, without the benefit of counsel. Right now, six out of ten respondents, including asylum seekers, children, and mentally ill respondents, appear before the immigration court without legal counsel and the percentage is even higher for respondents in detention."

"With immigration reform on the horizon, Congress must focus on a reform package that includes a roadmap to lawful permanent status for the millions of undocumented immigrants currently living and working in the U.S., reforms to the legal immigration system in a way that will help businesses to grow, families to reunite and bring fairness to immigration enforcement. We urge Congress to take the necessary steps to create an immigration system that lives up to American values," she concluded.


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. 13032051.