Donald Trump has hit on a theme that is resonating with voters. No one has polled Democrat voters yet (I believe), but I suspect that he will poll favorably there too. Trump’s policies will effect other candidates’ positions next year not only for the White House, but also every other federal office. They will see how popular Trump’s ideas are and follow suit.

For this I blame the immigration bar. I would place special emphasis on the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

For some twenty plus years the immigration bar and especially AILA have pushed for something that they call ‘comprehensive immigration reform’ (CIR). This is little more than a code word for amnesty and the American public knows it. We (I exclude myself), as members of the bar and AILA (I am a long time member) have pushed for CIR at the exclusion of considering core reform proposals that would improve the system in a meaningful way. We have opted out of positions that would improve the legal system and would support the economy, American workers, and our position in international trade. There is room for generosity in that mix.

We have no one to blame for the Trump blowback but ourselves.

The positions we have taken, to grant what amounts to open borders and a disregard of the rights of those who have tried to obey our laws and procedures, may make many of us feel superior. I suspect that deep down some have paternal feelings for the undocumented aliens here. By any other description they are illegally here.[1] It is fine to have these feelings when we represent them. It may make us feel good, advocating for the average person, but that is not what good policy is. We need to separate the representation of individual aliens and advocacy to make the system better.

We would laugh if a criminal law bar association advocated pardoning all felons. We would equally find it ridiculous if a bankruptcy law bar association advocated forgiving all debts.[2]

Legal reform is not the same as advocacy. I would argue that it is most selfish of us to advocate positions, which make us, feel good rather than further proposals for a proper legal system that is good for America. Almost all would deny that they are being selfish, but by advocating what makes them feel good rather than that is good for the legal system they are abdicating their roles as objective reformers and are in fact selfish for just that reason. They are putting their feelings ahead of their reason.

If our positions are not objective why should congress or the American electorate take them seriously? If we were not advocating for America it would be wrong for congress to adopt our proposals.

Our positions were not what were good for America and now we are experiencing the backlash.

Good policy is that which is workable on a long-term basis, is fair and is good for America. CIR is none of these things.

Good policy requires that we advocate for procedures that do not require an amnesty every twenty or thirty years. Good policy takes into account that America exists for the American people and by that I mean American workers. Good policy assists us in our participation in international trade.

Good policy acknowledges that the U.S. government has a duty to control our borders and the people who come here. We should be advocating policies that make the system work better and not those, which would encourage tens of millions of more people to come here in search of the next amnesty.

Good policy should advocate such things as doubling the size of the immigration court system so that we can administer justice as expeditiously as possible. We might also advocate increased judicial power to allow worthy people to remain here on a case-by-case basis.

Good policy would include increased enforcement at our borders.

Good advocacy might include acknowledging what is right about America. People vote with their feel and I suspect that hundreds of millions would vote for America tomorrow in this way if they could. I don’t see any of our ‘advocates’ leaving for some foreign heavens where immigrants are treated better.

Good advocacy tells the American people why these policy changes are good for them and why these policy changes will improve the system.

To date the immigration bar has been a mutual admiration society. By constantly telling ourselves that everything we advocate makes sense we have deluded ourselves. We tell ourselves how wonderful the positions we take are and how evil anyone who disagrees with us are. Wrong. We reinforce our prejudices by constantly talking to and debating only with people who agree with us. Wrong. You can’t learn by only hearing what you want to hear. To get to the truth you need meaningful debate with those you disagree with.

Many of the reforms we want might have been obtained fifteen years ago had we been willing to compromise. Many of the reforms America should have done, have never been considered, because we have abdicated our duty in favor of our own feelings.

Donald Trump’s campaign may peter out in the next few months but his policies in the area of immigration reform have taken on a new life. I do not believe he as yet fully understands the complexity of the positions he advocates. He doesn’t seem to understand that to deport some 12 million people he would need a police force as big as all the police forces that now exist in the United States or that he would have to build concentration camps to hold al the aliens while they pursue their statutory hearings. He does not seem to understand the foreign policy challenges his policies create. He does not seem to understand that unless we change the constitution aliens have rights to due process.

We do not yet have the infrastructure to handle this. It might take several years to get up to speed. That’s government 101.

The immigration bar would excommunicate anyone assisting Mr. Trump with these issues. The immigration bar would be better served by addressing these issues.

Those issues will not now go away.

I blame this situation on the immigration bar and AILA. It’s not too late to reformulate the debate. The first order of business should be to discuss these issues in an unbiased way. I’m not sure if the leadership currently exists to do this.

[1]The euphemism ‘undocumented’ instead of ‘illegal’ fools no one.

[2] We seem to suspend belief when presidential candidates offer proposals to forgive student debt though.

Reprinted with permission.

About The Author

Harry DeMell

Harry DeMell has been practicing law in the areas of visa, immigration and nationality since 1977. He is a graduate of New York Law School.
Mr. DeMell is an active member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). He has been a member of the AILA's annual planning committee, participated in their lobbying efforts, and is a mentor to other members.
Mr. DeMell has also chaired committees for the Nassau County Bar Association and the Brooklyn Bar Association. He is a frequent speaker and a writer on important visa and immigration issues.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.