Friday, June 17th, 2011

Juan Williams

In an over-capacity banquet room at the State Bar Convention, Fox News correspondent Juan Williams challenged and entertained attendees, as he gave his view on a changing America. He urged Arizona lawyers to step up and play a part in defining communities and policy, especially as they reside and work “in a state that is a laboratory.”

Williams used demographic and Census data—and his own reporting experience—to examine an anxiety that he says many Americans express. The numbers are startling, he said, as the U.S. population booms—perhaps up to 400 million in another 20 years—and the perceived gaps between groups widen.

He said that people he speaks to say, “This is not the country I grew up in.” They do not know where the people who work at the 7-11 come from, and the schools are filled with a more diverse group than ever before.

This is symptomatic, he said, of an anxiety felt by many.

There is a perception, he said, that the newest immigrants are unlike those of previous generations. Now, he said, assimilation is almost a dirty word, and many newcomers may not necessarily even want to become citizens. The “melting pot” has become a “mosaic,” with all the component parts remaining distinct.

Williams spent the majority of his speech exploring a different divide, not racial, but generational. He described his visit to Florida communities where seniors are living longer and more actively than before. They have high expectations of life, and they will likely challenge efforts to provide more services and benefits to a younger generation—especially one comprised of people who seem foreign to them.

In response to a question about diviseness, Williams said that, “It is self-defeating that the United States has not adopted the DREAM Act.”

He said that his heroes are “people like Sandra Day O’Connor and Thurgood Marshall, who acted as architects of society.”

As a law dean once told a young Marshall, “You are either a parasite or a social engineer.”

In that regard, Williams urged those assembled to “stand up and be a leader.” In the ongoing conversation—sometimes battle—over immigration, conflicts between the young and the old, and racial differences, lawyers must decide to make a difference.

Especially those in a laboratory.

In the muck and the mire that sometimes marks public debate, Williams said, good and involved citizens reach in to locate the value.

“Keep your eyes on the prize,” he ended.

More photos are at the Arizona Attorney Magazine Facebook page.


Scott Whelan

Among the wide variety of seminar titles that populate the convention brochure, the title above caught my eye. For it’s a brave panel that suggests to streams of lawyers and judges flowing past that the system itself, the process to which we’ve dedicated our lives, is a flawed one that causes harm—not just occasionally, but in the normal course of operations.

Co-sponsored by the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education and the Young Lawyers Division, the seminar was a look at immigration law on the ground.

The first half of the session focused on the ins and outs of T and U Visas—those that may aid undocumented immigrants who have been the victim of trafficking (T) or of other crimes (U).

Presenting on that was Scott Whelan, of the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Immigration, who had flown out from Washington for the conference.

That was followed with some pointed conversation from attendees and the panel. The crux focused on local law enforcement—police and prosecutors—and their sometimes reluctance to sign a victim certification. That may occur for a variety of reasons, either a blanket disagreement with the visa use, or a misunderstanding of the certification’s legal import.

L to R: Nicol Green, Valerie Hink and Mary Day

As Whelan described it, local law enforcement often tells federal authorities that they won’t certify, because they do not want to grant a visa or any immigration benefit. But as the panel made clear, neither is the case—it is merely a certification that a person is cooperating and providing substantive assistance in a prosecution.

Panelist Mary Day, of Southern Arizona Legal Aid, noted another reason it may be difficult to get the certification: “Most police and prosecutors do not have a passion for immigration law. They have their own passions.”

Jennifer Castro

The great panel also included faculty Valerie Hink and Nicol Green.

Seminar chairs were Jennifer Castro and Leslie Ross, of the Foundation; Maricela Meza of Karp & Weiss PC; Sharon Ng of Stinson Morrison Hecker LLP; and Jennifer Rebholz of Burrell & Seletos.