What effect does the immigration bench and bar—the judges and lawyers who handle immigration issues—have on the National Question?
Quantitatively, probably not much, because of an unfortunate fact: The number of non-citizens who go through legal proceedings is likely just a fraction of the total number of non-citizens in the United States.
Yet the attitude of the bench and bar sheds a lot of light on the American elite's attitude to immigration.
The most recent issue of my legal alma mater's alumni magazine provides a damning account of the one-sided view held by "the professionals". For them, immigration doesn't seem to be a contested issue so much as a single-purpose mission: bring in as many as we can.
When the issue arrived in my mailbox, I knew I was in for some boiling blood: the cover title is "On the Road to the American Dream: Brooklyn Law School Leads the Way in Immigration Law." The title is superimposed over the classic image of the European family circa 1910 pointing to the Statue of Liberty. (See it here, or download it. [PDF])
A more timely picture would have been the falling twin towers of the World Trade Center.
A bit of background about my law school. It's private, unaffiliated with any undergraduate school, and sits in the middle of downtown Brooklyn. The snobsters of Above the Law would deride it as a "TTT" (third-tier toilet) (actual ranking here). But I would say that it's on the rise.
I note that the school has tried to recruit a few Federalist Society-type professors, probably in an effort to get a more national profile. But, at root, it is a typical law school, with a heavy liberal/left—and of course Jewish—bias.
That comes through loud and clear in the alumni magazine on the immigration bar. Featured alum Samuel J. Krantz, '00, is the "grandson and great-nephew of Holocaust survivors who immigrated to the United States after World War II", so Krantz "has always had a personal interest in immigration work…"
Anyone in the immigration bar whose "personal interest" arises because his sister was hit and killed by an illegal alien drunk driver? Not that I've seen.
With anything legal, one typically thinks of two sides—plaintiff and defendant in a civil case, prosecutors and the defendant in a criminal case, husband and wife in a divorce, etc.
So who does Brooklyn Law School have speaking up for the "other" side, i.e., the U.S. government?
Listen to Jessica Segall '06, who works for the Office of Immigration Litigation:
"Sometimes, I am not disappointed to lose a case if it s means that a deserving person won."
Or Fred Hess '67 of the Board of Immigration Appeals, who says that "most of these individuals are very productive noncitizens who have just run afoul of the system".
Oh, that system!
(Though Hess was one of the rare subjects quoted who said anything even mildly negative about immigration: some people must be kept out because they are a threat and "we need to make sure that we don't risk American citizens' lives". Right. That whole thing).
But otherwise the basic law enforcement attitude seems to be one of great sympathy for immigrants—which might lead the rest of us to wonder whether the whole game is fixed.
Consider what the judges themselves have to say.
Immigration Judge Joanna M. Bukszpan '76: "My husband is a naturalized citizen… I went to BLS to help people and immigration is an area where people really need help."
Can you imagine a criminal court judge declaring that "I got into being a criminal court judge because I wanted to help people, and criminal defendants really need help"?
Something tells me that "the American people" aren't the "people" that Judge Bukszpan is talking about.
Judge Margaret McManus '83 worked for the Legal Aid Society's Immigration Unit and taught CUNY Law School's Immigrants' Rights Clinic. According to Syracuse University's TRAC Immigration Project, she has the lowest rate of immigration denials in America.
Gushes Judge Terry A. Bain '80, "The best part is when you can grant relief to someone in desperate circumstances."
OK, judge… America's traditional majority is up against "desperate circumstances". Who's going to grant them relief?
Another Brooklyn Law judge did visa work for a private firm, still another was moved by a visit to Ellis Island. And so on.
If there were a Brooklyn Law immigration judge who took a skeptical view of immigrant claims, he or she wasn't quoted.
So where does all this pro-immigration bias come from?
One place to look: the professoriat itself, which at Brooklyn Law School is decidedly left-wing. The clinic founded by Prof. Stacy Caplow [Email her], the Safe Harbor Project, has law students representing immigrants in applications for asylum.
Somehow, the "Heretical Two" didn't make the clinic's cut.
Prof. Cyrus Mehta is a member of the notoriously immigration-happy American Immigration Lawyers Association, Prof. Dan Smulian [Email him]was an associate director for legal services for Catholic Charities' immigrant services, and Prof. Maryellen Fullerton [Email] is editor of the Refugee Law Reader.
Chirps one law student: "Professor Fullerton encouraged students in her Forced Migration class to intern at UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees)."
Yes, I'm sure Professor Fullerton would be enthusiastic about that. Working for the asylum of an HIV-positive person is just so much more glamorous than working to keep him out. How could you possibly say you were doing that for a living at a party in Manhattan?
Now, I have never practiced immigration law myself. And perhaps there's another side to this story. I'd be happy to hear it.
But it looks to me as if practitioner enthusiasm is heavily tilted toward the pro-immigration side.
Part of this may simply be the power of the anecdote: the plucky, daring immigrant who stands alone vs. the more nebulous "protection of the country". But some of it is also probably motivated by anti-majoritarian politics: once we "brown out" those boring white people, we'll have a Multiracial People's Paradise, right here on Earth.
So, elected officials planning patriotic immigration-reform legislation, take note: Whatever law you lay down will be taken up by immigration lawyers, on and off the bench.
And they will be looking for ways to get around it.
Anonymous Attorney really wants to be anonymous, but email will be forwarded to him. Put "Anonymous Attorney" in the subject line.