Written by: Jeff Joseph, AILA Board of Governors

Anyone listening to the Republican primary debates would assume that immigration is at the forefront of the national consciousness and that immigration has become a defining issue in this election cycle. Given the heat and rhetoric surrounding the immigration debate and the frequency with which immigration is being used as a wedge issue in the primaries, one is left to ponder: Why have our elected leaders continuously dropped the ball on this critical issue? More importantly:  Why, on earth, would I continue to spend my time and resources to advocate for immigration reform when my elected officials do not seem to be listening?

As I ponder these legitimate questions, I am reminded of Aesop’s fable “The Crow and the Pitcher.” In the fable, a crow, half-dead with thirst, came upon a pitcher which had once been full of water; but when the crow put its beak into the pitcher he found that only a little water was left in it, and he could not reach far enough down to get at it.  He tried, and he tried, but at last had to give up in despair. Then a thought came to him, and he took a pebble and dropped it into the pitcher. One after the other, he tediously dropped pebbles into the pitcher.  At last, he saw the water mount up near him, and after casting in a few more pebbles he was able to quench his thirst and save his life. The moral of the story, of course, is that little by little, persistence pays off and helps us to accomplish our goals.

Let’s be realistic.  Immigration reform in an election cycle seems like drops of water at the end of an empty pitcher.  Nevertheless, it is critically important that our Association, and we as individual members, keep the dialogue regarding the need for immigration reform in the mainstream. While our advocacy efforts on the Hill might not get traction this year, we should not pause. We should continue to drop pebbles. At this time, more than ever, we should focus our energies on our communications, public relations and messaging. It is our duty as advocates to continue to put out our very simple message:  Immigration and immigrants are good for America. By propagating this message with clear examples of the clients with whom we work, we can change the hearts and minds of Americans so that when reform becomes a reality (which it will) the everyday voter will be ready to go to the ballot box and support it.

Whether you are blogging, appearing in the media, speaking in public fora, or attending the annual National Day of Action, I challenge you to do what you can to promote our messages regarding the positive contributions of immigrants and advocate for sensible immigration laws that will benefit our clients for generations to come. Immigration reform is not an option for us. It is a challenge, but one which we must accomplish and eventually will through simple persistence. I will see you at in Washington, D.C. on March 29th for AILA National Day of Action 2012.