Of DACA, Walls And Deals


For the past twenty-five years the immigration bar has been pursuing a course of action that has resulted in no gains and stalemate. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the immigration bar is pushing for comprehensive immigration reform, a code term for a general amnesty. It has not worked, but a compromise right now might open the door to other compromises in the future. We should not pass up this opportunity.

President Trump has offered a deal to make DACA permanent in exchange for a border wall. This would be a win-win for both sides. It is unlikely that the United States will ever deport these DACA applicants and if they were put into proceedings they would gum up the courts for years. The immigration courts are already at the verge of inconsequence because of severely long backlogs. On the other hand, the position that a general amnesty will lead to a significant increase in illegal immigration has merit.

Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats in congress have painted themselves into a corner in apposing a border wall at all costs. Congress wastes billions on what I will call pork. If I used language from my Brooklyn roots I would use much stronger words. If the wall is such a waste as she says what do the Democrats have to lose by trading the wall for a permanent fix to DACA, which might include a possible path to legal permanent residence after some time or under some conditions?

We, the immigration bar and especially AILA have to admit that the policies of the past twenty-five years have not worked. Sane heads must see this. We are in a position where anger over the 2016 election had clouded reason (also toned down rhetoric).

We need to recognize that an orderly, intelligent system for immigration is good for the realm and that taking steps in this direction is in everyone’s interest. This might be a first healing step.

Well, not in everyone’s interest. There are many who want to politicize this and are playing on the emotions of their base to further their own political interests. If you cannot see that your side is doing this than you are part of the problem. We need to break the mold and take the first step to restore sanity in Washington. By having the immigration bar lobby congress and pressuring AILA to do the same, we will help break the impasse, and move our country ahead in this area. It will also set up a path to compromise in other areas and that is good for America.

By having AILA and the immigration bar officially state that this compromise is necessary, we give both sides a way out of the stalemate.

For those of you who are part of the “resistance at any cost” I hope that you will reconsider these ideas. AILA’s position for an all or nothing “comprehensive” immigration reform has led to a stalemate for has been a generation. Hate for President Trump will continue the stalemate for the next two years and most likely four more after that.

If we take the position of compromise now we are opening a door to truly creative proposals that have been ignored. We might consider a new guest worker proposal for western hemisphere natives similar to the Bracero program that would help the American economy in an age of historically low unemployment. We might find a way to exchange judicial power in the immigration courts to expand cancelation of removal. We might find a way to allow those who have been waiting longest for immigrant visas to qualify for adjustment.

The position of the immigration bar over the last twenty-five years has not worked. The position of much of the readers of this article opposing President Trump at every turn is little more than a child’s temper tantrum. These positions do no good for our clients, our country or for ourselves. Time to grow up.

If we fail to take the position that compromise here is the right path we are doing a disservice to our clients, our profession and our country. It says everything about us.

About The Author

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.