In many of my comments, I have suggested that immigration policy is not only a matter of dealing with the innumerable details and day-to-day issues that come up in connection with the specifics of how the system works, critically important as they are. My clients are not interested in what might be called the philosophy of immigration; they want to know if their petitions will be approved, and when. But inevitably, the specifics which are so important to all immigrants, as well as their advisers and supporters, are influenced by the broader picture of immigration in relation to American politics and society as a whole.
We might see this in what may loom as a coming epic, fratricidal battle between immigation lawyers and interest groups on both sides of the compromise which has reportedly been worked out between Democratic Senator Charles Schumer and Republican Senator Charles Grassley that would eliminate the per country limits on employment-based immigrant visas which have made the green card waiting periods for India and China in particular so much longer than for most other countries.
As yesterday's ID editorial comment eloquently points out, the time for America to eliminate these vestiges of the national origin quotas which were originally adopted to carry out an openly racist agenda in the 1920's is long overdue. However, eliminating these caps will inevitably cause even greater retrogression for visa availability in most other countries of the world.
Almost every immigration lawyer, myself included, has clients on both sides of this divide. Why should we, and our clients, be forced to fight over how to divide up a pie which is much too small to begin with? Why do we not have a larger pie? Why do we have to look at our horoscopes every year to try to forecast when doomsday for that year's H-1B visas will arrive? Why do we have to write endless comments predicting or, after the fact, analysing, which proto-fascist anti-immigrant state laws the Supreme Court will throw out and which ones it will let stand, and for how long?
For that matter, why do we have to deal with proto-fascist federal policies such as "Secure Communities", Section 287(g), and an immigration detention system which a former client of mine, who had experienced it briefly before returning to Japan, left so traumatized that when she was subsequently caught in the center of Japan's catastrophic 2011 earthquake, she described the quake as the "second worst" experience of her life?
(As an aside, In my personal opinion, the days of the one provision of Arizona's SB 1070 WSIP law which the Court did leave standing are numbered - it will not be long before the lower courts begin to uphold challenges to this "Hand over your papers!" law on racial profiling and civil rights grounds.
After reading his dissenting opinion in Monday's decision, I think that there could be a good chance that Justice Alito may eventually join Justices Roberts and Kennedy, as well as the - relatively - liberal justices, and throw out the Wo sind Ihre Papiere provision, which is at the heart of Arizona's storm trooper inspired law, leaving Justices Scalia and Thomas in the same lonely minority that they were in Padilla v. Kentucky)
Therefore, in order to make reliable predictions about what kind of results our immigration clients can expect in their individual cases, and what kinds of specific issues we will have to deal with as lawyers and immigration advocates in the future, we need to look at the larger picture. Two of the most important parts of that picture are America's growing class inequality, well described by economist Joseph Stiglitz in a recent Financial Times article, and its trend toward authoritarian thinking, epitomized in Justice Scalia's scathing dissent in the Arizona case. I will have more to say about these issues in future bloggings.
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years.