I had heard a rumor that it was a fire-able offense for anyone in Ira Kurzban’s firm to concede a conviction in immigration court. So while talking to Ira at a conference once, I asked him if it was true. He informed me I had heard wrong. He explained that it is a fire-able offense in his firm to concede anything, not just convictions.

Few immigration lawyers deny charges and force ICE attorneys to meet their burden in immigration court as a matter of routine. Sit in any EOIR courtroom during a master docket and count the number of cases in which charges are admitted and conceded and the number in which they are denied.   In my experience, when charges are denied, ICE attorneys are rarely prepared with proof of alienage or certified records of a conviction. Why is that? Because the culture in immigration court on the “defense” side is to admit and concede.

I respectfully submit that in creating this culture, we are doing a disservice to our clients and the system. In admitting the allegations and conceding to the charges half the case is given away in a matter of seconds. This practice is akin to a criminal defense attorney pleading guilty for a client at arraignment without seeing anything the government has against the client.  Can you imagine such a scenario?

Though the new administration has been in power only a few months, it has become readily apparent that there will be little give and take or negotiations with ICE attorneys in removal proceedings. Smart, targeted enforcement focused on potential threats to public safety has become a thing of the past and a new, “no-mercy” mantra is settling in.  We must respond. That’s why I’m excited to be working with AILA and the Council on these aggressive lawyering tactics and strategies through the Immigration Justice Campaign. We will not stand by while due process gets tossed aside.

Granted, there are occasions where admitting and conceding can have strategic benefits – a blanket policy of denying everything may not be wise. But requiring the government to meet its burden should be the rule, not the exception.  Make them do their job, while you do yours.

If Ira Kurzban, THE Ira Kurzban, wakes up every morning, brushes his teeth, puts a suit on, goes to court and tells the judge, “I’d like to see the government prove their case,” who are we to do the opposite?

Do the job you swore an oath to do, protect your clients’ rights and simply make the government meet its burden. You may get some irate calls or sidebars from judges, but you will be doing your job. So do what Ira does.  Deny!