We’ve got another big vote coming up on a series of AILA bylaws amendments. Admittedly, some of it is not terribly exciting. Nevertheless, fellow AILA members, this initiative deserves your attention and support.

At the direction of AILA President Anastasia Tonello, our Bylaws Committee conducted a section-by-section review of AILA’s bylaws, with several objectives in mind:  First, the Bylaws Committee reviewed the bylaws to ensure compliance with the legal requirements of the D.C. Nonprofit Code. Second, the Bylaws Committee reviewed the bylaws with an eye towards streamlining certain operational provisions. This package of bylaw amendments updates the descriptions for National Officers, designates the proper authority to replace vacancies, and clarifies designated bodies and advisory committees–all important but not Earth-shattering changes.

A third objective of the Bylaws Committee review was related directly to one of the goals of the 2017 AILA Strategic Plan. In 2017, AILA’s Board of Governors (BOG) approved a three-year strategic plan which included the following goal:

AILA must continually reaffirm and strengthen the perception among practitioners that AILA membership is the gold standard for immigration attorneys.

Within AILA leadership, we began exploring how AILA membership itself can help elevate the practice of immigration law and reflect the personal and professional values of AILA members—values like civility, professionalism, mutual trust, and respect.

The Bylaws Committee found that the current bylaws did not provide a framework that enables members to mutually achieve our shared values and aspirations.  The current bylaws allow an AILA Chapter to censure, suspend or expel members “for cause…after a fair hearing,” but provides no definition of “fair hearing” and does not expand on “cause” beyond referencing normal AILA member qualifications like possessing a law license, not having a bar suspension, or disbarment in the last three years. The Bylaws Committee concluded change was essential to provide structure, formality, risk management, and most importantly, due process in the rare event a member is accused of misconduct.

The proposed Bylaws amendments fill the gap to protect members and AILA Chapters. Chapters can now refer matters to the National Membership Committee, a body which can only suspend or expel a member by a two-thirds vote after a defined fair hearing. Even if that were to occur, the affected member maintains the right to petition the Board of Governors for review. Significantly, the Membership Committee is also empowered to resolve disputes through informal counseling. Examples of “cause” are now detailed and the confidentiality of proceedings is maintained.

It is fitting that at the end of this three-year strategic plan, we are revising our Bylaws to better reflect our values. I encourage all of you to vote in support of this package of amendments.