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Letters of the Week: Dec 8 - Dec 12

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Updated 12-15-2014 at 10:45 AM by IDBlog

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  1. Ken Rinzler's Avatar
    AILA Is Focusing on the Wrong Priorities

    Here are three things which AILA should be focusing all of its resources on, but isn?t, because the only thing it really cares about is CIR du jour (aka, amnesty).

    1. NVC

    The NVC is in complete melt-down, virtually non-functional. From both my own experience and those of every colleague you know, the place simply is not working correctly. It is overloaded, under-budgeted, and under-staffed (and staffed principally by contractors at that). I was recently on the NVC tour, and was so dismayed by what I saw.

    The physical facility is about half the size it should be, and while we were there hardly anyone was at their desk. While we heard the usual reasons (e.g., many telecommute, staggered shifts, lunch hour, pumpkin festival in Keene today, etc.), it didn?t strike me like a place which felt that it had a crisis on its hands.

    The Director, Phil Slattery, is a great guy, someone I know from when he was posted in Germany. But like all directors, he comes in for a two or three year term, reinvents the wheel, and then moves on. There is no institutional memory other than in the contractors. In fact, it reminded me of AILA in that respect: the contracting staff really runs the place. The NVC needs to have more State Department people directly involved, and for longer tenures.

    The PR aspect of the tour was just sad. The claim to fame was how the correspondence backlog has been reduced from (and these are approximate as I didn?t write down the exact numbers) 44 days to 39. Now I realize from the NVC?s point of view that counts, but from the end user?s point of view (that would be us and our clients), it counts for zilch. And we are all aware of the ?give us 60 days before you annoy us again? letters we all get, as well as the constant changing of rules and procedures. And I won?t even mention the RFE?s we get, the ?non-adjudication adjudications? on I-864?s, etc.

    The place is getting drastically worse, not better, and when I asked Phil what plans they were making for the increased workload if the amnesty goes through all he could do was say ?no comment?. To me, that spoke volumes.

    2. CIS

    I don?t think it?s necessary to repeat all of the well-known issues with CIS; we?ve all got our own war stories.

    But remember this. If the amnesty goes through (and I am far from certain it will), CIS will be inundated and overwhelmed unlike any previous time in its history. And no amount of extra funding from fees generated, nor the rapid and thus incompetent training that the hundreds if not thousands of new adjudicators (?high school diploma only required, good pay and benefits, apply now!?) who will be hired will receive in their ?Ten Weeks on How to Adjudicate an O-1 Petition and Other Simple Tasks? orientation course will enable CIS to cope with the resulting dramatic increase in its workload. Also on the ?plus? side: some frightening results, not to mention massive fraud.

    Now to help address structural problems with both the NVC and CIS, AILA would have to have a proper Congressional Liaison operation, which it simply hasn?t had for?.ever. AILA is not viewed as an objective professional association with technical expertise on Capitol Hill or in the Executive Branch, but as an advocacy organization with not only an open borders agenda, but with a clear disdain for anyone who disagrees. Not only has that not worked in the past, but it certainly won?t work with a new Congress in GOP hands. AILA cannot keep calling amnesty opponents names, refuse to acknowledge the legitimate concerns of others, and continue to fail to recognize that not everyone agrees with its agenda. AILA has de facto labeled itself as an arm of the Democratic Party, and that?s not the way to get things done on the Hill.

    3. More Free CLE for the Membership

    There?s no way to put a good spin on this: there is an overwhelming need for the Immigration Bar to become more competent. Many of the questions I see posted on the MC or on listservs defy the imagination. The lack of knowledge and experience and doing basic research before you ask, not to mention the naivet? of how consular posts really work, is astounding. As I have written many times before, we do ourselves no favor with State when we display what can only be described as ignorance. As much as some colleagues like to complain about FSO?s who do not appear to follow regulations when it comes to adjudications, we are equally at fault as to how we come across in our dealings. And while we cannot be held responsible for how FSO?s act, we can certainly improve ourselves.

    AILA National is awash in money. Awash. Instead of spending so much on whatever today?s version of open borders CIR is, why doesn?t the organization significantly reduce what it charges for the annual conference and CLE, and while they?re at it have seminars which really teach you something. Not these ridiculous 45 minute sessions with the same old (AILA and government) speakers where half the time is taken up with the presenters slapping each other on the back. Long sessions with substance, and with FSO?s who know something. Yes current government regulations make that difficult, but it is certainly not impossible and any necessary waivers can be obtained. What?s truly sad is that the FSO?s I know would rather have a root canal than go before a group of AILA attorneys who ask the same basic questions and show that they have no personal experience with being at a post overseas nor have ever considered the fact that their clients might, just might, not be telling the truth.

    What AILA Is Focusing On Instead?

    Right now, AILA National is only concerned with two things: amnesty, and a completely unnecessary and ill-advised desire to reincorporate in Washington so as to maintain the status quo as regards the power structure.

    Mike Owens will be chiming in soon on the reincorporation proposal, but I will add a few comments here. What the National (ExCom, impotent BOG, Bylaws Committee) is saying is, frankly, complete bull****.

    We have proven electronic voting can be held for everything, including proposals to amend the bylaws. And there is nothing from stopping the National from using VoteNet for all votes, whether officer elections, bylaw amendments, whatever. Doug Stump proved that. And yet the world didn?t end. For elected officers and BOG to say otherwise means that their elections are invalid, which they certainly aren?t claiming.

    This is simply an attempt to keep their hold on power. It?s truly unfortunate that Russell Abrutyn?s proposals sidetracked Mike?s at the last annual conference, for limiting who is on the BOG or the perks given past presidents pales in comparison to allowing each member an electronic vote on such critical issues as bylaw amendments and whether all 13,000+ members will get a realistic chance to vote on this $50,000 boondoggle to reincorporate and try to avoid some of the transparency requirements of New York State law -- all under the Orwellian guise of ?true? electronic voting ? or just the 300 or so die-hards who will pony-up to attend the Spring Conference in DC (as we know the BOG in Hawaii in January is a foregone conclusion).

    Leslie Holman has a choice. She can build upon Doug Stump?s precedent and do the right thing by letting all 13,000+ members vote on the reincorporation proposal by Vote Net, or turn a blind eye and claim that she?s only following ?counsel?s? recommendations. One decision shows leadership. The other shows indifference.

    My guess is that amnesty will fail. We all know I would be happy with that. But whether it succeeds or not, these other issues need to be addressed and AILA needs to change its priorities to help its members, for we are the ones who try to help others.

    The National no longer treats the needs of its members as its first priority. Why is that?

    Kenneth Rinzler
    Washington, DC
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