With slightly less giddy anticipation than the annual fan frenzy evoked by the Academy Awards, the nation awaits another hotly competitive yearly awards ceremony. Yes, Nation of Immigrators, it’s time to announce the 2014 winners and losers in dysfunctional immigration law and policy who’ve earned the coveted (or disdained) IMMI Award. Some recipients are repeats from hitherto IMMI awards of 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013; others will take home an IMMI for the first time. The rules are the same. The IMMIs are merely this outside-the-Beltway observer’s take on the year’s highs and lows in U.S. immigration, with help from some Cool Immigration Lawyers.
Evolver in Chief. Fighting off a strong challenge by Sean Hannity who demonstrated astonishing elasticity in opposing, then supporting, then again opposing lawful status for the undocumented and a path to citizenship, President Obama earned this IMMI for his yoga-like pliancy. As itemized in the screed of a complaint filed by multiple states, the President opined at least ten times before his grant to DREAMers in 2012 of deferred action, and work and travel permits, and nine times thereafter, that he lacked unilateral authority to address America’s dysfunctional immigration policies, that is, until he announced a series of Executive Actions (not Executive Orders) in the year’s penultimate month.
Make sure that they understand they don’t have to hire a lawyer . . . in order to pay for this [requests for deferred action]. Because what we saw during DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] when the young people were given this opportunity, a lot of people signed up but sometimes you’d see advertisements you know, “Come and give us $1,000 or $2,000 and we’ll help you.” You don’t have to do that.
The President also may not have read but surely officials in the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice are aware of Padilla v. Kentucky, where Justice John Paul Stevens, writing the majority opinion, stated: ”Immigration law can be complex, and it is a legal specialty of its own.” While not all applicants seeking temporary reprieve under DACA or DAPA [Deferred Action for Parental Accountability] need a lawyer if their case is straightforward and they are assisted by an Accredited Representative approved by the Board of Immigration Appeals (certainly never a notario), numerous cases will require the advice of a competent immigration lawyer. I have a ready answer when prospective clients ask me, “Why do I need a lawyer to fill out immigration forms? I tell them that “I guess I could perform surgery on myself, but it is not advisable.” Another lawyer I know, when faced with the same question, says he’s done the following:
I used to pick up a copy of the [Immigration and Nationality Act] and pick out section 203(a) and hold out the pages “these are the ways to get green cards.” I then indicate section 212(a) and hold out the pages — “These are the ways you will not be allowed to obtain a green card.” And then, do the same with what is now [section] 237(a). “And these are the ways that once you have a green card, it can be taken away. . . .” “Any questions?”
To be sure, DACA and DAPA are not as complex as the myriad ways to assemble the right evidence to qualify for, obtain, maintain or lose permanent resident status. Still, the process is sufficiently complex and the consequence of failing to qualify significant (the individual is now on the government’s radar and is subject to removal). Thus, even for those seeking deferred action, the need for a lawyer (or merely the desire to hire a lawyer to facilitate the assembly of potential evidence of physical presence in the U.S.), is obvious. Hence, the President’s advice is simply incomplete and therefore wrong. Thus, for failing to make appropriate distinctions and caution that some cases may require legal counsel, President Obama deserves the opprobrium of this IMMI.
Profile in Poltroonery. In 2014, the winner of this IMMI offered an enlightened solution to illegal immigration:
Our national and economic security depend on requiring people who are living and working here illegally to come forward and get right with the law. There will be no special path to citizenship for individuals who broke our nation’s immigration laws – that would be unfair to those immigrants who have played by the rules and harmful to promoting the rule of law. Rather, these persons could live legally and without fear in the U.S., but only if they were willing to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics, and be able to support themselves and their families (without access to public benefits).
All about Love. Jeb Bush, the first 2016 candidate for the presidency, earned an IMMI for his recognition of the prime reason why the undocumented take the risk of dying in the desert. With Fox News in attendance, Mr. Bush commemorated the 25th anniversary of his dad’s presidency, offering these honest words:
The way I look at this is someone who comes to our country because they couldn’t come legally, they come to our country because their families — the dad who loved their children — was worried that their children didn’t have food on the table. And they wanted to make sure their family was intact, and they crossed the border because they had no other means to work to be able to provide for their family. Yes, they broke the law, but it’s not a felony. It’s an act of love. It’s an act of commitment to your family. I honestly think that that is a different kind of crime that there should be a price paid, but it shouldn’t rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families.
We Read Nothing. This IMMI goes to the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs — an agency that places unreasonable mandates on consular officers to adjudicate far too many visa applications in too short a time frame. The upshot is that consulates, such as the busiest blanket L-1 post in Chennai, will no longer read substantive correspondence from companies seeking to hire tech workers and instead requires all the facts to come solely from the mouth of the visa applicant during the brief consular interview.
Best Manual on Surviving Secondary Inspection. The IMMI goes to the Central Intelligence Agency for its interesting and thorough “Surviving Secondary Screening at Airports While Maintaining Cover.” In words that might apply to ordinary people applying for admission at a U.S. port of entry, the CIA notes: “Secondary screening—a potentially lengthy and detailed look by airport officials at passengers not passing initial scrutiny—can significantly stress the identities of operational travelers.” The cover wins an IMMI for best government cover page as well. Check it out at p. 2.