Wednesday, April 26, 2017

American Immigration Lawyers Association — National Day of Action 2017

{4:18 minutes to read} On April 6th, I was in Washington DC as part of a contingent of immigration lawyers from the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). This was our National Day of Action, the purpose of which is to meet with members of the House and the Senate, in order to work with or at least discuss the issues in immigration law that we feel are most important. Attendance this year numbered over 550 members, which is far and away the largest group that's ever appeared for the National Day of Action.

Members of my local group split up in order to meet with the local congressmen on Long Island. We didn't meet with the actual congressmen or women themselves, but we were able to meet with representatives of Lee Zeldin, who is the congressman representing Suffolk County primarily. We also met with Kathleen Rice, who is the House member representing a large section of Nassau County. Congressman Zeldin is a Republican, while Congresswoman Rice is a Democrat.
We found that Congressman Rice's office was with us and, in some cases, ahead of us in terms of promoting the rights of immigrants and trying to calm the fears of the immigrant community. We also had good rapport with Kevin Dowling, who is the legislative director for Congressman Zeldin. We hope that, moving forward, we will be able to work with them to promote the rights of immigrants and the employers who need immigrant services on Long Island.

H-2B Visas
There were a couple of issues that are particularly important to members of Suffolk County, one of which is the H-2B visa.
The H-2Bs are the semi-skilled or unskilled workers who come in seasonally to work in the restaurants on the East End. They also pick grapes, work in the hotels as maids, cooks, and landscape people and work at the marinas. These people come primarily from Central South America and the Caribbean to work during the summer season, which is a critical season on Long Island, particularly in the East End.
The problem is that we run out of H-2Bs every year. The earliest day we could file was January 1st, and quite literally, I was in my office on New Year's Day to file these applications electronically. Unfortunately, we still got frozen out in many cases. They just ran out of visas before the paperwork could get approved.
We are trying to get Congressman Zeldin to help us change the rules to allow returning workers on these H-2Bs, which would increase the number of people who could come into the United States during the summer season to work for US employers.
In the past, returning workers were included without being in the cap, meaning additional people could effectively come in. There would be returning workers plus new workers coming in under the cap. We are asking Congressman Zeldin to join with us in helping to get these returning workers included in the budget resolution.
The other thing we discussed with Mr. Dowling is, of course, the problems that we have on the East End with undocumented immigrants, documented immigrants, and in some cases, US citizens as well, who are terrified of the Trump deportation threat.
The National Day of Action was successful for us. We had good meetings and are going to follow through with our Congressional representatives on all the immigrant issues that affect Long Island.

Mitchell C. Zwaik

Zwaik, Gilbert & Associates, P.C. 5014 Express Drive South
Ronkonkoma, NY  11779 

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