This blog post is part of a months-long series leading up to the formal celebration of AILA’s 75th year at the upcoming Annual Conference in New York City, June, 2022. In this piece, four AILA members reflect on what they see as AILA’s greatest strengths and the relationships they’ve built during their membership of AILA. Submit your own reflection here: 

“When DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) was still the law of the land, Daniel Weiss, a former AILA attorney, now a Superior Court Judge in NJ, set up the GLIG listserv which sprung an entire team of AILA attorneys from all over the country interested in LGBT advocacy.  The bonds we made back then have met the test of time.  Many of us are still best friends, and still working the trenches to seek justice for our clients.

AILA has given me the opportunity to know respected colleagues from every jurisdiction and every circuit.  I often find myself bouncing ideas and strategies with the colleagues I consult with.  I feel they too benefit from my take on certain fact patterns.  Without these resources, in my opinion, the practice of immigration law would not only be lonely but also less successful.” – Ally Bolour, AILA Board of Governors

“I became involved in AILA on a local level in the mid-1980s. At that time the old INS had established Regional Service Centers to process applications and we no longer had access to the decision makers. I started the first Nebraska Regional Service Center conference in Chicago which then led to the annual AILA tour of the Regional Service Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. The whole experience made me realize how important working with my colleagues in the immigration bar was to foster communication between us and the government.

I was vice chair of my chapter the year Ron Klasko was president; he asked me to undertake a legislative history research project on the subject of investor labor certifications. The DOL had determined that an investor could not qualify for a labor certification because there was no “bonafide job offer” and the advertising recruitment to determine whether there was a qualified American was a sham. It was a fascinating project and I was invited to make a report at every single AILA board meeting the year before I was Chicago Chapter Chair. Sam Myers was my AILA executive committee contact and it truly catapulted me into national AILA leadership. When I finished my term as Chapter Chair I was elected to the AILA Board of Governors. The following year, I was elected to the AILA national executive committee.

It was such an amazing time in our field. Back then, Congress actually passed immigration laws. Starting with the challenge of processing cases subject to 1986 IRCA (legalization and employer sanctions) to ImmAct90 opening up employment-based immigration and then to IIRAIRA, with those ten year bars and all the politics that went with the legal/illegal immigration debate, the period that I served in leadership with AILA were extraordinary. I served as president of AILA the year after IIRAIRA, and my primary goal was liaison. We had some victories. A big one was the determination that the ten year bar did not apply in adjustment of status. Paul Virtue was a great leader in the government—he really listened to us at AILA.

After AILA, I became president of the American Immigration Council (AIC), for four years. Bob Juceam was the founder, and I became his first successor president. It is a wonderful organization and my years as president were extraordinarily gratifying.

So many more stories, but suffice to say, AILA (and AIC) was pivotal to me in my practice. There are so many wonderful lawyers I worked closely with during those big years and they made such an impact on my professional experience and expertise, like Warren Leiden, Jeanne Butterfield, Denyse Sabagh, Sam Myers, Daryl Buffenstein, Paul Virtue, Ted Ruthizer, Dale Schwartz, Ron Klasko, Maggie Catillaz, Steve Ladik, Jack Pinnix, Polly Weber, Hope Frye, Bob Juceam, Crystal Williams, Roxanna Bacon, Dan Siciliano and of course, our very own Ben Johnson!” – Peggy McCormick, past AILA president.

“Over 44 years of successful lawyering during good and bad administrations, AILA resources have always been there for me. [One of my favorite memories] was when I was much younger and AILA was much smaller, the Texas lawyers would play the New York lawyers an annual game of softball for bragging rights for the next year.” – Thomas Esparza, Jr., AILA Texas Oklahoma Chapter

“Most of my career as an immigration lawyer has involved ‘business, or employment-based immigration’. The successes I remember most, though, centered around advocacy in helping improve the rules around these areas. Three come to mind immediately: The first was orally arguing, on behalf of AILA, before the newly created Board of Alien Labor Certification Appeals the Information Industries case in which my colleague and dear friend, Nancy Elkind, of Colorado, was seeking to help create what became referred to as the ‘business necessity’ rule related to requirements imposed by employers in labor certification cases. Both of us orally argued that case which led to a successful result that is still applied today. I helped write several briefs in other labor certification cases leading to similar improvements in that obscure, but important, area of law.

The next was helping to devise and write a statutory amendment called ‘The Conrad Waiver’. This was a statutory change in the law around foreign medical graduates, who are in the US on J-1 visas, to waive the 2-year ‘home residence requirement’ normally required of J-1 graduates, based on the recommendation of a State Health officer (which helps bring physicians to underserved areas).

The effort I am most proud of, however, occurred when I was AILA’s president in 1991. During that year I led many teams of AILA lawyers collaborating to help the federal immigration agency draft the implementing regulations for ImmAct90, the federal law that congress had just passed vastly improving legal immigration to the U.S.

Most of my friends are immigration lawyers and AILA members. I say that proudly. They are collaborative, smart, energetic and they operate from a values-based perspective. I will always treasure the many friends AILA has given me the opportunity to meet and work with.” – Sam Myers, past AILA President.