Founded in 1946, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) is a nominally nonpartisan, nonprofit organization of over 8,000 attorneys and law professors that provides its members with continuing legal education, information, professional services, and expertise through its 35 chapters and more than 75 national committees. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., AILA is directed by approximately 100 associates who also serve as members of the pro-communist National Lawyers Guild.
AILA’s stated mission is “to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.” Another primary objective is to “[e]ducate the public about the ways in which U.S. immigration law and policy serves the national interest by reuniting American families, protecting refugees, and providing U.S. employers with the specialized skills they need to remain globally competitive.”
AILA denounces virtually all of the security measures taken by the U.S. government in the wake of 9/11, claiming that they “have infringed on the civil liberties of immigrants and have created a climate of fear and distrust in immigrant communities around the country.” This AILA position reflects the views of its Executive Director, Jeanne Butterfield, who was previously the Executive Director of the Palestine Solidarity Committee (PSC), a Marxist organization that serves as the political arm of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
AILA holds several major conferences each year to update attorneys and immigration activists on new developments in immigration law and pending legislation. It also engages in lobbying and offers expert testimony at Congressional hearings.
While the public emphasis of the organization is on its role in the process of legal immigration, AILA strongly supports the expansion of civil rights and liberties for illegal aliens residing in the United States. One typical AILA publication never uses the term “illegal” for those living in what it calls the “shadows,” nor even the term “undocumented.” AILA terms them “people in the U.S. without authorization.”
AILA seeks to authorize the entry of anyone who wishes to cross American borders; to grant amnesty to illegals already in the United States; and to establish a “new temporary program [to] give workers the opportunity to work where they are needed and [to give] employers experiencing … shortages the workforce they need to remain competitive.” Seen as a quick path to citizenship, “such a program would diminish significantly future illegal immigration by providing people with a legal avenue to enter the U.S.”
AILA opposes virtually all restrictions on immigration. For example, it condemned the National Security Entry/Exit Registration System (NSEERS) program under which males from Middle Eastern countries were required to be photographed, fingerprinted, and questioned upon their arrival at a U.S. port of entry, and to re-register a year (or, in some cases, thirty days) later. According to Judith Golub, AILA’s Senior Director of Advocacy and Public Affairs, this program “left immigrant communities feeling besieged, harmed [American] relations with foreign governments, and wasted precious resources.”
AILA was a signatory to a March 17, 2003 letter exhorting members of the U.S. Congress “to oppose … ‘Patriot [Act] II'” on grounds that it “contain[ed] a multitude of new and sweeping law enforcement and intelligence gathering powers … that would severely dilute, if not undermine, many basic constitutional rights.” In addition, AILA has given its organizational endorsement to the Community Resolution to Protect Civil Liberties campaign, which tries to influence city councils to pass resolutions of noncompliance with the provisions of the Patriot Act. AILA also endorsed the Civil Liberties Restoration Act (CLRA) of 2004, which was designed to roll back, in the name of protecting civil liberties, vital national-security policies that had been adopted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.