In response to Sen. Russell Pearce’s claims in the Arizona Capitol Times (May 17, 2010, “Trespassing law may turn more illegal immigrations into citizens”) that immigration attorneys ‘tie up the system or play games” or “fabricate and exaggerate issues” in immigration court proceedings, he grossly exaggerates our ability to manipulate a well-established, yet arguably broken immigration judicial system.
However, Pearce does not exaggerate the contempt he holds for those charged with representing immigrants in a system specifically designed to afford the two things that he and the flawed S1070 legislation desperately seek to take from them: due process of law and their dignity.
Pearce’s comments are offensive and meritless at best as I suspect he has never stepped foot inside an immigration courtroom, much less taken the time to understand the complex dynamics of immigration, steeped in our nation’s history, beyond his myopic and dangerous “deport them all” non-solution mentality.
At worse, his comments evince a callous and ignorant nature toward the decent men and women with the audacity to serve immigrants in Arizona’s hostile political climate. All this begs the question: If Senator Pearce has such a low opinion of immigration attorneys, enough so to utter irresponsible and baseless claims, how does he truly feel about the human beings we are sworn to defend?
I do not exaggerate to say I am proud member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), an organization that adheres to the highest ethical standards in the legal representation of immigrants physically present in the U.S.
It is not an exaggeration when I say that our role in this ongoing legal and social debate is critically important now more than ever. I do not exaggerate when I say that AILA immigration attorneys will continue to stand up for those who are continually beat down in Arizona. Lastly, I do not exaggerate when I say that we will continue to provide zealous representation to immigrants in court proceedings, with or without Pearce or S1070, until the U.S. Congress and President Obama accept comprehensive immigration reform as the true solution to this dilemma.
Should these basic notions of fairness offend Pearce, I strongly urge him to consult with his attorney before he speaks of issues he knows little to nothing about.
Gerald E. Burns is an attorney and the chairman of the Arizona Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.