We would like to congratulate Sarah Owings on her election as Chapter Chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), Georgia-Alabama chapter. Below are remarks Sarah made at a chapter meeting upon receiving this honor.
“Thank you so much for this opportunity to lead the chapter. As different leaders have different styles of leadership, I wanted to give you a brief explanation of my goals for the year, building on the work we have already done:
First, I want to continue the good work we are already doing. Under Marshall Cohen’s leadership, the AILA Georgia-Alabama chapter received Platinum status from the AILA National’s Chapter Awards Program. This is a distinguished honor that demonstrates a tremendous amount of work on the part of chapter leadership. I hope to continue that trend in creating new and valuable opportunities for chapter members, maintaining solid channels of communication with our government liaisons, and fostering a strong working relationship with AILA National.
Second, I would like to work on changing the ecosystem of the Atlanta Immigration Court. The emerging narrative about asylum case denial rates in this jurisdiction troubles many practitioners. The problem is a broad one, due to many factors – and for those in the trenches, it often feels like death by a thousand cuts.
Part of changing that narrative will involve bringing resources and training for our advocates from outside of the area – learning new ways to present these cases to our judges, finding successful ways to navigate the combative attitudes that we often face, and fostering a stronger local bar, that is more willing to take these cases.
Another part of changing that narrative will be advocacy. By capturing the data about these cases, we hope to have a clearer picture of the areas that are working and areas that are not. Then we want to use that data to push for targeted changes so that federal law is fundamentally fair in the Atlanta jurisdiction.
Third, I would like to build the capacity to advocate for changes in state policy. It is no accident that Georgia is subject to anti-immigrant driver’s license policies, that fake attorneys or “immigration consultants” are given the blessing of registration and licensing by our Secretary of State, and that we are subject to experiments in immigration enforcement in the form of raids against women and children. This is all because we are in a position of very limited power – we speak for the voiceless before the state policy makers in a notoriously anti-immigrant state. I would like to see us work to build relationships with parties and lobbies that are historically neutral on immigration. I want to find common ground with these groups so that the next time a hurtful piece of legislation is put before the Georgia General Assembly, we are a united opposition – many voices and interests – speaking from a place of power able to demonstrate that immigration affects us all.
Again, thank you for the opportunity; I hope to serve all 501 of you well and with continued passion for this work.”
Sarah Owings, Chapter Chair, AILA GA-AL Chapter