New administration, new challenges, new opportunities. That was the theme of last week’s American Immigration Lawyers Association Annual Conference on Immigration Law, a reference to shifts in policy initiated by the Biden Administration.

AILA is a professional association of more than 15,000 attorneys and law professors, the largest of its kind for this crucial area of law. The Association seeks to promote justice, advocate for fair immigration law and policy and enhance the quality of legal representation, while also serving as a liaison between the immigration bar and the enforcement community.

The Harris Beach Immigration Law Practice Group was in high demand at the conference. Four of our attorneys were invited to present to colleagues and others in connection with some of the 80 conference sessions over four days. We were honored to be asked to lend our knowledge to better the practice of immigration law, especially at a time of challenge and opportunity for clients and the immigration community as a whole. Harris Beach presenters were:

  • Senior Counsel Lu (Kevin) Wang, who discussed “Cultural Awareness: How to Promote Diversity and Inclusion.” Kevin and his co-panelists discussed the definitions of diversity and inclusion and their importance to immigration practices, including their workforce, clients, and relationships with government agencies. They also discussed other essential workplace D&I ideas, including cultural adaptability and countering implicit bias. The panelists all agreed that embracing D&I is essential for a successful practice, and it takes time to develop and maintain the openness to learn.
  • Partner Danielle (Dani) Rizzo, co-leader of the Immigration Law Practice Group, who discussed “NAFTA/USMCA: The Current State of Play at the Southern and Northern Borders.” Dani and her colleagues provided updated information regarding the partial closure of the land borders between the United States, Canada and Mexico and provided other immigration attorneys suggestions for how to have clients “flagpole” to seek readmission at the port of entry without being subject to a quarantine requirement in Canada or Mexico as well as tips on use of automatic visa revalidation. They also provided updates on TN and L-1 adjudication trends at the port of entry.
  • Partner Jason Abrams, who discussed “Defining and Defending Bona Fide Marriages.” Jason and his co-panelists walked through red flags that immigration officers see when they assess marriages, and suggested types of evidence to neutralize them or even turn them into positives.  Jason’s advice as always was to remain an evolved and agile lawyer, constantly updating one’s lists of evidence and paying close attention to trends in adjudications.
  • Partner L.J. D’Arrigo, co-leader of the Immigration Law Practice Group, who presented on “H-2 Practice: What Are We So Afraid Of?”: L.J. and his panelists provided a high-level overview of the H-2A Temporary Agricultural and H-2B Non-Agricultural Temporary visa programs to address one of the most pressing issues facing our seasonal business clients – finding short-term reliable employees to meet seasonal needs. As this is a very unique and specialized area of immigration practice, L.J. and his panelists navigated through the complex maze of the H-2A and H-2B visa programs to provide an overview of visa requirements, procedures, compliance, and employer obligations under the programs. The goal of the program was to arm immigration attorneys with additional tools to offer their clients in the temporary and seasonal employment space.

The divided political climate being what it is, it’s difficult to predict what the future holds for immigration policy in the United States. One area we found encouraging from the Department of Labor Open Forum has to do with the PERM program. DOL representatives pledged to bring down processing times of PERM applications and prevailing wage requests. They also said they intend to modernize the PERM system by incorporating it into the newer FLAG system and augmenting attorney/department messaging features. It is so valuable to us as attorneys to get the chance to receive this feedback and work with clients, policymakers and AILA toward a re-set from some of the chaotic policymaking of the last four years.

“We are ending this AILA year five months into a new administration, full of hope and promise, but also not taking anything for granted, and continuing to hold the government accountable when it strays from the lofty and laudable ideals of its rhetoric,” outgoing AILA President Jennifer Minear, an immigration attorney in Richmond, Virginia, said in her remarks to the conference.

The Harris Beach Immigration Law Practice Group consists of immigration attorneys and staff working across New York state in offices in Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, Long Island, New York City, Rochester and Syracuse. The team focuses on strategies — including immigrant visas for permanent U.S. resident status and temporary visas for foreign nationals — to ensure that employers are able to hire, transfer and retain the brightest and best non-U.S. talent.