American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Conference Expands A Student’s Thinking

American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Conference Expands A Student’s Thinking
In early February, I had the phenomenal opportunity to attend South Beach Florida’s 34th Annual Immigration Law Update on a student scholarship. Honestly, when I first arrived I was feeling a little out of place. Most of the attendees were practicing attorneys with many years of experience and they all seemed to know each other quite well. The conference was held in a great location: the Treetop Ballroom on Jungle Island. However, with the schedule, I only had the opportunity to take in the beautiful, panoramic view during brief scheduled breaks (one in the morning and one in the afternoon). This conference was unlike any I have ever attended. I did not have to choose which sessions attend because all the sessions were held in one large ballroom. The conference materials were provided on a disc and contained all the updated case law summaries for each panel. Every panel had speakers that are highly recognized in their respective area of immigration law. Of the many panel speakers that I met, Mary Kramer, who wrote The Immigration Consequences of Criminal Activity: A Guide to Representing Foreign-Born Defendants and Ira Kurzban, who wrote Kurzban’s Immigration Law Sourcebook stood out for me because I used their books when I handled cases in the Immigrant Rights Clinic. I was most impressed with the level of collaboration among the attorneys. During one of the closing sessions, the panel reminded the attorneys not to work in isolation especially in key areas that impact the immigration community as a whole.
As I listened to the panel discussions and took notes, I started to make connections between the discussion topics and my experiences in the Immigrant Rights Clinic as well as some more recent topics that were covered in the International Business Transactions class that I am taking this semester. I found intriguing the discussions and vendor projects related to EB-5, an immigrant investor program. Under EB-5, a foreign investor who invests $500,000 into a targeted employment area that creates full-time employment for ten U.S. workers can earn residency status in the U.S. Before attending the conference, I had a relatively narrow perspective of immigration law. After the conference, I notice some challenging issues being raised in my mind. Is U.S. citizenship for sale? Does the EB-5 programs limit the abilities of others foreigners to obtain citizenship or unfairly delay people on waiting lists? How much of the U.S. economy is tied to foreign investment? More questions than answers, but I must say I appreciate the experience and the expansion of my own thinking. I encourage students to take advantage of these opportunities while in school because you learn not only about the law, but you will learn about yourself.

Cynthia Barnes