Last week I had the chance to speak at the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Annual Conference in Orlando on waivers of inadmissibility. The conference is four days with wall-to-wall training sessions and opportunities to brainstorm, strategize, and commiserate with immigration lawyers from around the country. It was, as always, both exhilarating and exhausting.
One of the highlights was the keynote address by Julian Castro, Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Mayor of San Antonio, and candidate for President of the United States.
Secretary Castro kicked off his address by telling of how his grandmother immigrated to this country. After she got here, she worked hard to raise her kids but never was able to own a home or even open a bank account. By many people’s measures, her story would not have been considered a success. Now, she has one grandson who serves in Congress and another who is running for president.
As Secretary Castro reminded us, neither assets nor education can determine whether a potential immigrant has “merit” for entry to the country. It is generation after generation of immigrants arriving and infusing their spirit of adventure, entrepreneurialism, and desperation into the United States that has driven our prosperity. In the face of the current efforts to crack down on asylum seekers and deny family-based immigrants because a government official deems them likely to become a public charge, we cannot afford to forget our history. And we cannot afford to let our elected leaders forget our history.
Coming back to the office after the conference, we are invigorated to fight for our clients’ rights and secure in the knowledge, as Secretary Castro put it, immigration lawyers are advocates that demonstrate their belief in the greatness of this country through our work every day.
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