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.