Legal experts explain connection between politics and immigration policy

Media Credit: Arielle Bader | Assistant Photo Editor

There has been a particular focus on immigrants at the U.S. border with Mexico, Rahman said.

Two legal experts shared advice with students about the intersection between politics and immigration law at a webinar Tuesday.

They discussed how politics can affect national immigration policy, as well as potential effects of the U.S. election on immigration. Rosa Celorio, the associate dean for international and comparative legal studies, moderated the event, which was hosted by the international and comparative law program and four other groups focused on the law or immigration.

Anam Rahman, a partner at Calderón Seguin PLC and an alumnus of GW Law, said U.S. immigration law has changed significantly since Donald Trump became president.

“We are seeing bold sweeping changes across the board from the Trump administration,” she said. “It’s really a combination of regulatory policy and programmatic changes across the board in every part of immigration.”

There has been a particular focus on immigrants at the U.S. border with Mexico, Rahman said. The administration has worked to limit asylum to those who are fleeing Central American countries, she said.

She said immigration lawyers have had increased difficulty keeping up with policy under the Trump administration, as there is an influx of executive action on the issue. Years of backlogs in immigration systems have made it difficult to reunite families who have crossed the border, Rahman said.

“Not only are there big changes, many of the changes are relatively thoughtless,” she said.

Rahman said she would “expect more of the same” policy from Trump but a promise from Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s platform “to reverse everything.”

“By completely restructuring the immigration courts, we can protect due process,” she said.

Rahman added she believes the country would benefit from asking immigrants “to come outside of the shadows” and into society. She said the U.S. economy is “built on the backs” of undocumented immigrants.

Alberto Benitez, a professor of clinical law at the law school, said a talk about systemic racism toward immigrants in the United States is “long overdue.”

He said immigration clinics offer legal counsel to undocumented immigrants but said most often these lawyers only speak English. He said these immigrants getting assistance in their native languages is the key to receiving a green card for many of them.

He said his greatest contribution to law has been helping young law students who want to become immigration lawyers through teaching. Benitez said he emphasizes legal education as a tool to reform the legal system.

“When the time comes for me to move on, if I have been able to help someone on the path to becoming an immigration lawyer, I think I have done my job,” he said.

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