AILA Needs More Diversity

by Harry DeMell

I looked around and kept my ears open at the AILA conference in Nashville and I noticed that AILA needs more diversity.

It's easy to see that the membership of the American Immigration Lawyers Association has members from every race, ethnic group, gender, religion, and sexual orientation. What it doesn't have is diversity of ideas, and that is what diversity should be about. The rest is window dressing.

Diversity is good if it is inclusive and people know that others like them are included: people that look like them, come from the same ethnic or religious background or gender. That should be the second reason that diversity is important. The real reason should be that with diversity should come ideas that might not otherwise make it into the marketplace of ideas. We would hope that with an expansion of ideas, the best would rise to the top and everyone would benefit.

What I fear and what I seem to see is that AILA does not want to promote a diversity of ideas. The election of officers and board members is a contest among those who claim purity to the ideas already on the table. No one seems to dare rock the boat. The speakers rarely take positions that contradict the orthodox positions taken by the board and it seems that there is no public debate within the organization that would further the marketplace of ideas.

It might be fair to say that this is also a problem with other organizations and institutions of learning, where only those who agree with the gospel as presented by the insiders are allowed to become insiders. This is not a healthy state of affairs.

If science existed on these principles we would still believe the earth was flat and we would still be bleeding the sick to cure them. Only scientists and doctors who agreed with the old ideas would be allowed to practice.

AILA should not be afraid to house a big tent. We should encourage debate on all aspects of immigration law and policy, as a 'bar association' should. If those in authority really believe that their positions are sound, they should not fear an influx of ideas. That is the very purpose of the first amendments right to free speech.

If we really believe our ideas and ideals are correct why would be want to exclude other ideas? We would contrast them with our own and show them for what they are.

This is not Communist China or the Islamic Republic of Iran where they fear that free ideas will expose a hollow system. This is America where free ideas have transformed the world in a dozen ways. Those transformations came as a direct or indirect benefit of free American thought. AILA can learn from this

About The Author

Harry DeMell is an Attorney practicing exclusively in the area of Visa, Immigration and Nationality Law since 1977.

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