Prominent Immigration Lawyer and HuffPost Contributor Calls #BringThemHome Campaign a “Publicity Stunt”

Jul 27, 2013
11:19 AM

As the #BringThemHome campaign enters its second week, a nationally-recognized immigration lawyer called the action organized by undocumented immigration youth a “publicity stunt,” saying that it does nothing to forward the push for comprehensive immigration reform.


In a interview with Miami’s VOXXI, David Leopold, a Huffington Post contributor and the former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the following:

Bottom line, I think this is a publicity stunt that doesn’t do anything to move the ball forward in terms of immigration reform.

The nine undocumented activists who initially self-deported to Mexico in order to re-enter the United States through Arizona to highlight the Obama’s administration deportation policy are currently being detained at the Eloy Detention Center, south of Phoenix. According to the Associated Press, the #Dream9 are “asking to be allowed to remain on humanitarian grounds in a protest against American immigration policies.”

The AP story also reported that the group is currently on “a hunger strike because authorities are limiting their telephone privileges,” according to Margo Cowan, who is representing the group. The story also added:

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in Phoenix issued a statement Friday night saying “the detainees in question were issued their phone PIN codes Thursday morning and have access to phones from 6:00 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. daily in accordance with our detention standards.”

ICE officials added that “due to privacy laws, we are prohibited from discussing specific cases.”

Cowan said she also is seeking asylum in the U.S. for all nine should the government deny their requests for humanitarian parole. U.S. officials are expected to interview the activists Monday and Tuesday as they consider the request, she said.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, meanwhile, declined to discuss specifics of the case.

“The United States has been and continues to be a welcoming nation,” CBP spokesman Michael Friel said Friday. “Under U.S. immigration law … applicants for admission bear the burden of proof to establish that they are clearly eligible to enter the United States. In order to demonstrate that they are admissible, the applicant must overcome all grounds of inadmissibility.”

In the VOXXI interview, Leopold expressed doubt that the group would gain admission into the country due to humanitarian reasons: “Humanitarian parole is something that is used very sparingly — it has to be used very sparingly — and none of them qualify for it or for asylum from what I can tell.”

Leopold also said that the action is not beneficial to the immigration reform debate, which will likely dominate Congress’ August recess.

I just don’t agree with this. I think all it does is draw attention away from the real issue, which is that we do have a broken immigration system and that we do need Congress to fix it.

In response to Leopold’s comments, DREAMer and organizer Mohammad Abdollahi told VOXXI that “rather than seeing the action by the nine Dreamers as something that could hurt the immigration reform debate — like Leopold and members of Congress argued — he said it is ‘a stepping stone’ that could help propel the debate forward.”

[Leopold] shouldn’t be speaking in the first place. Unfortunately, it’s not his place to say that this action goes too far because he is not undocumented.

At the end of the VOXXI story, Leopold added:

I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t support the Dreamers — I do, of course I do. What I don’t support is people being flippant about U.S. law and U.S. policy and putting their own personal interests ahead of millions and millions of others who are so desperately waiting for Congress to do something on immigration reform. That’s what bothers me here.