Let Your Voice Be Heard; Vote in AILA's National Election


Matthew I. Hirsch

The American Immigration Lawyers Association is holding its national elections. There is one contested election for a position on the Executive Committee and contested elections for seven seats on the Board of Governors. Candidate campaign statements can be found on AILA’s website and ILW has included information on the election and the candidates on its website. Voting will continue until 4pm (PST) on Thursday, June 27. AILA members may access the electronic ballot at https://eballot4.votenet.com/aila.

For members who may not know, the Board of Governors is comprised of AILA’s National Officers, 21 elected Directors (elected 7 per year for three year terms), the 36 Chapter Chairs, a representative of the New Members Division and all living Past Presidents. Its duties include determining AILA’s policies and priorities, reviewing and approving AILA’s annual plan and budget, providing financial oversight, reviewing and approving changes to bylaws, setting annual goals, measuring performance and representing AILA’s membership. The Board sits as a deliberative body, and is a forum for discussion, decision making and debate regarding the allocation of AILA’s resources and the organization’s direction and strategy.

For this reason, it is somewhat surprising that so few members vote in the AILA election. In last year’s election, roughly 25% of members cast ballots for one or more open positions. This is an improvement over prior years, when fewer than 2 out of 10 AILA members cast votes for national officers and the Board. There may be many reasons why a person chooses not to vote: Some people may feel that their vote doesn’t matter. Some people may feel that they don’t know the candidates. Some people may be disinterested in AILA governance or policy. The reasons for not voting in AILA’s election probably parallel the reasons people give for not voting in local, state or federal elections.

But it is worth reminding AILA members that every vote counts and every vote matters. Like shareholders in a public company, AILA’s members have a right to be heard. AILA’s members have a right to come to Board meetings, to voice their opinions and to participate in AILA governance. The organization has an annual budget of over $13.0 million, most of which comes from member dues and conferences. All AILA members have a stake in how that money is spent.

So, as member-shareholders, it is both important and worthwhile to participate in AILA. For some, this means participating in a local, regional or national conference or committee. For others, it means getting involved in grassroots or community advocacy or acting as liaison. For yet others, it means taking part in AILA governance, at the chapter or national level. However you participate, it is important to remember that “You Belong to AILA, and AILA Belongs to You.” If you haven’t done so already, please remember to vote in the AILA election.

About The Author

Matthew I. Hirsch is based in Wayne, just outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After law school, he joined the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service as a Trial Attorney. As a Trial Attorney for the INS, Hirsch represented the U.S. government proceedings involving deportation, political asylum and adjustment of status.

Since leaving the INS, Hirsch has concentrated his practice in the field of immigration law. He is a past-officer and Chair of the Philadelphia Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and currently serves as a Trustee of the American Immigration Council. He regularly speaks at local and national conferences and has authored and edited a considerable number of published articles on immigration law.

Since 1993, Mr. Hirsch has been an Adjunct Professor of Immigration and Nationality Law at Widener University School of Law. In addition to teaching and speaking at regional and national law conferences, he has been a frequent speaker on immigration topics for international students, attorneys and business professionals.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) alone and should not be imputed to ILW.COM.