Panel Discussion Looked at Immigration Law
Web Editor - Published: November 14, 2010
On Wednesday, November 10, 2010, Widener Law’s Delaware campus played host to a panel discussion on the changing face of immigration law in America in the Ruby R. Vale Moot Courtroom.

Harrisburg campus Associate Professor Jill E. Family, who specializes in immigration law, served as the moderator for the event, and the panel consisted of Widener Law Associate Professor Stephen E. Henderson; Matthew I. Hirsch ’85, an adjunct professor of immigration law at Widener and a trustee of the American Immigration Council who maintains a private law practice in Wayne, PA; Steven P. Barsamian ’76, a Philadelphia lawyer whose practice specializes in immigration law and a member of Widener Law’s Board of Overseers; and Theodore Murphy, founder of the Murphy Law Firm in West Chester, PA, who specializes in immigration and nationality law.

Ryann Buckman, Vice President of Academics/Community Service for the Delaware Student Bar Association, gave a brief welcome and then introduced Professor Family. “We’re here this afternoon to talk about immigration law enforcement,” said Professor Family, adding, “We’re so lucky to have this distinguished panel here today,” before giving a brief introduction for each of the panelists.

“Restricting immigration into the United States has been an issue for over a hundred years,” said Mr. Murphy, who spoke first. He highlighted some of the historical factors that have impacted immigration policy, focusing on armed revolutions in South American countries, drug trafficking, and gang activity as elements that have lead to increased enforcement. “Arizona is the battleground where these issues are being played out,” he concluded.

Professor Henderson spoke next, focusing on the criminal procedure aspects of the Arizona law. Using a multimedia presentation, he highlighted some of the controversial provisions of the law that have been challenged by the federal government. He showed two video clips of oral arguments before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals – one of State of Arizona attorney John Bouma and the other of U.S. Deputy Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler arguing for the federal government.

“This goes on in places other than Arizona,” noted Mr. Barsamian as he discussed how such laws affect illegal immigrants who encounter the authorities. He discussed the role of Immigration and Customs Enforcement as a unit of Homeland Security, and some of the problems created for people by strict enforcement of immigration laws, but he allowed, “Sometimes this is a good thing because it forces people into the system, and sometimes they can ask for relief.”

Matthew I. Hirsch spoke last, cataloging recent political developments related to immigration law. Describing the system as “broken,” he indicated that comprehensive reform was necessary, “Not just to fix immigration for the immigrant, but for America.” He discussed past efforts at reform, all of which fell short, and noted that the immediate prospects for comprehensive reform were negligible.

At the conclusion of Mr. Hirsch’s remarks, the panel took questions from both the moderator and the audience. The questions focused on a range of topics including when a stop turned into an arrest and the status of the so-called Dream Act designed to provide a path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants in good standing brought into the country by their parents. One question from the audience focused on whether the argument could be made that Constitutional rights such as Due Process and Equal Protection do not apply to illegal immigrants, to which Professor Henderson replied, “The government hasn’t made the argument that because you’re illegal, you have nor rights.”

As the panel neared its conclusion, Professor Family reminded the audience, “Immigrants are not a monolithic group,” and that it was important to remember that. Mr. Hirsch closed the panels remarks by saying, “The Arizona law is a reaction to what they feel is a limp enforcement of federal immigration laws."