With the Trump administration making clear that it is taking aim at immigration and immigrants, and the lawyers that help them access due process, we practitioners find ourselves in a period of great uncertainty.  We are facing an administration that is making changes to the way that immigration laws are currently interpreted, administered and enforced – with threats to make more – that have and will negatively impact the businesses and individuals that we all work with.  Each day seems to bring more changes, making things more difficult for our clients.

Like many of the business immigration practitioners out there, I was shocked when I received my first Level 1 Request for Evidence (RFE) (though not surprised, as other AILA members had already reported receiving such RFEs) – but reading the first one left my mind racing.  My first thoughts were – 1. how does USCIS have the authority to issue these RFEs? 2. How do I respond to this? 3. Is this something I should have anticipated? 4. What next?

Luckily AILA quickly put together a comprehensive practice pointer and audio seminar. Both were extremely useful in question 2 (how do I respond?). Both laid out strategies I could follow and provided case law and citations I could use when developing my own response.

I am anxious about what is coming next. What should I be anticipating? While we cannot predict the future, AILA’s educational programs offer members an opportunity to get the latest news and information on RFEs from experts who devote time and attention to this issue. I look to these CLEs to give me an idea what type of RFEs USCIS is currently focused on, and what might be coming down the pipeline, so I can best prepare the cases I am about the file. I also rely on them to develop responses to the RFEs I have received.

In addition to business cases, I also handle family-based immigration. The majority of these cases are straight-forward marriage cases. A couple of weeks ago, for the first time in all my years of practice, clients of mine got scheduled for a Stokes interview. The couple has been together many years, had a ton of documentation and did seemingly well at the interview. So why are they scheduled for a Stokes interview?  I am really not sure.

For those of you who have watched Netflix’s Stranger Things, at times it feels like we are living in the Upside Down. What does one do in the midst of uncertainty and confusion? Learn! Fill up our toolboxes with cutting edge tactics and glean ideas from the best legal minds. If you’ve been reeling from the recent attacks on immigration law and feeling like you need a bit of guidance, the 19th Annual AILA New York Chapter Immigration Law Symposium is for you.

The one day, multi-track CLE program was developed to assist members face the new challenges. Speakers will provide critical up-to-date information on recent changes in the law, policies, practices and procedures that AILA members need in order to effectively represent clients. Experts will offer strategies on how to handle the growing number of RFEs, denials and restrictions on immigrants.

I don’t know about you, but one of the most valuable factors for me in AILA membership is the network of attorneys that it offers. The conference offers an opportunity for colleagues struggling with the same issues to come together in person and strategize how to handle the problems that we are all facing with our cases (as well as an opportunity to vent!). Sometimes the most important thing an attendee takes away is the information gained during an informal conversation during a break. Personal connections can develop into lifelong invaluable resources.

In an ever-changing landscape, the smart immigration lawyer keeps up to date about new policies, new tactics, and helps others do the same. I’ll see you in New York!