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On Tuesday, April 28, 2020, HLP attorney Jim Hacking joined the always entertaining Ray Hartmann on KTRS radio to discuss the immigration news of the day.

One major topic was President Trump’s attempts to halt many types of immigration to the U.S.

Mr. Hartmann also threw Jim a curveball by asking him what would you say to Joe Biden if you were advising him on immigration policy.

The interview is about twenty minutes long and you can listen by clicking the link below.

Ray Hartmann:

We’re joined now by Jim Hacking. He is an immigration attorney in St Louis. Welcome to the show, Jim Hacking.

Jim Hacking:

Thank you Ray. Thanks for having me, a pleasure to be here.

Ray:

Now, I’ve always understood you to be the leading immigration attorney in St Louis, but I don’t know if I’m going to be getting some hate mail from the other immigration attorneys. You’re right up there. You probably have, this is your specialty, is it not? Serving immigrants and people involved in this area?

Jim:

That’s all that we do. Immigration 24/7, we have four attorneys now and there are a lot of really good immigration lawyers in St Louis. It’s a very collaborative group and we all have sort of a common purpose. We all really work well together.

Ray:

Okay, so I’ll call you the leading immigration attorney. It’s not really a competition. Business is booming for you with Donald Trump as President.

Jim:

We’ve certainly experienced an increase in cases. There’s a lot more to fight about. The immigration used to be sort of a sleepy practice area, but there are more changes in the law in a week or two than there used to be in a whole year.

Ray:

The most recent news was, I believe last Thursday, an executive order from the President, and of course his orders kind of change every day. And when we mentioned the President, we always want to do the disclaimer, do not drink your Clorox. Okay. Just want to put in that, that’s actually required. Tell us about the order. First he had an order that sounded like no person not born in America would ever come here again, and then he walked it back the next day. Explain where we actually are with the news from last week, once the dust settled.

Jim:

I think to understand everything is, you have to remember that this goes back to the old separation of powers, schoolhouse rock stuff of there’s the legislative branch, the judicial branch, and the executive branch. The legislative branch writes our immigration laws and our immigration laws have changed over the decades. They’ve been worked over by both parties and signed by prior presidents. And so what president Trump has been trying to do, he can’t get any legislative momentum on his anti-immigrant legislation. So instead he’s trying to do it administratively. And so we saw that right after he came into office with the Muslim ban, when there was all the chaos at the airport, that thing got struck down twice until he had to keep revising it, keep changing it, and then they added a little bit more protections and a little bit of an appeal. And that case went to the Supreme court.

Jim:

Supreme court said, well, the president has a lot of discretion or foreign policy, so we’re going to let the Muslim ban stand. Now, interestingly, that ban was only supposed to last for 60 or 90 days and now we’re three years into it. So on Monday last week, he tweeted out that he was going to stop immigration, as you said, for the foreseeable future. That was on Monday. Then he started walking it back, kept watering it down. But there’s still a lot of groups that it applies to.

Jim:

And so, one thing to keep in mind is that US citizens can sponsor their spouses, their parents, and their children, and there’s no limit on those visas. And one of the things the president has done is he said, all right, we’re not letting in the parents of us citizens anymore. He also said, we’re not letting in the brothers and sisters of US citizens anymore, we’re not letting anybody on employment visas unless they’re working in the healthcare industry and we’re not letting anybody in for the diversity of needs, which is that lottery that people from all over the world can apply to, to get a green card to the United States.

Ray:

Jim Hacking, how would you characterize what Donald Trump has meant to the immigrant community of St Louis and our country?

Jim:

Well, so obviously he ran on a very anti-immigrant platform. And I always tell people that elections have consequences. He has surrounded himself with some really smart people who know how to really make life hard for immigrants. It’s like every single turn, every way they can figure out a way to make things harder for immigrants. We have the wonderful international Institute here, the United States historically takes in 100000 refugees every year. The International Institute is a big part of that. That’s why we have such a vibrant Bosnian community, Iraqi community, Afghan community, anywhere. There’s been Vietnamese community, anywhere there’s been war in the last 40 years. We have a lot of those people here in the United States because of our refugee policy and he just gutted that. He cut that down. I think last year we only let in 16000 refugees. So, on that front, it’s made really hard for people.

Jim:

But overall, everybody trying to go through the immigration process, there’re cases that used to take two or three months but now take 18 months, and that’s all by design. Because he ran on the anti-illegal immigration. But really what their target is, him and Steven Miller and all his supporters are, they only want white people to come to the United States and they want the laws written back to the way that they were in the 1950s, and I was talking to someone the other day who loves Fox News, and she was saying, well didn’t we used to restrict immigration? I said, yeah we did, but Congress wrote it and the President signed it. It’s not just presidential fiat. He can’t just do whatever he wants and he can’t just strike down federal law just because he feels like it.

Ray:

And he is xenophobic, obviously. And that’s one of his calling cards politically, and in the tradition of despotic leaders, quite honestly, if I might throw in an editorial comment, how are people in St Louis affected, specifically your clients, by his order attempt, whatever it is, to keep their parents or brothers and sisters from coming to our country? Are there specific people that you represent living in our town who should be able to bring their parents to our country because of the low, who are unable to do so today?

Jim:

Absolutely. So I have a client, she sponsored her sister and her sister’s husband and their child. They’ve been waiting literally 15 years. That’s how long the line is to get their family members here. And this is again, remember people coming the quote, legal way. 15 years she’s waited, and now with a single swipe of his pen, he has directed the embassies that, even though she’s paid all the fees, followed all the rules, he has unilaterally said that the embassy cannot issue her family a visa.

Jim:

We have people who are lawful permanent residents. So, just below citizenship on the immigration ladder, our lawful permanent residence, he has stopped immigration to the United States by the spouses and children of lawful permanent residents. So these are people again, who are following the law, want to be here. So we have clients who are so upset, that are so distraught, they have fought and clawed to get their family members here. They were about ready to go to an embassy, interview, the Covid virus hit, and then all of a sudden Trump comes up with this proclamation and they’re stuck and they’re truly despondent. I haven’t heard such sadness and desperation in the entire time I’ve been practicing immigration law.

Ray:

It’s heartbreaking. What countries are most effected in your experience as far as your client base?

Jim:

Well, so I became Muslim 20 years ago. So most of my clients are from the Middle East. But it affects everybody. I mean, we were talking about Trump’s harsh immigration. I mean, nowhere has he done that more than on the people from Latin America. So everybody trying to come across the border, he has completely violated federal law. He’s completely violated international law. All of our commitments to allow asylum seekers to seek refuge here. I mean, when it comes to immigration, it’s a lawless organization. William Barr, who’s let them do whatever they want. He has all these political appointees from the far right, affair groups that hate immigrants. They can’t get sworn in. So he has all these acting deputy Secretaries of State or Secretaries of Homeland Security. It’s really a total joke.

Ray:

Do you think the Democrats, without making this partisan, are doing enough to push back?

Jim:

Well, I think it’s up to the lawyers right now. I think that it’s going to be up to the courts to see if they’re going to allow. And the proclamation is not based on national security like the Muslim ban was. It’s not based on protecting people from the Coronavirus. The only two rationales in there are to prop up our economy because of the depression that’s coming because of his bad leadership, and the State Department’s budget. But of course he’s gutted the State Department by not allowing anybody to come in there to work there. And there’s no analysis in the proclamation as to how, not allowing somebody’s 80 year old mother to come, the mother of a U S citizen, how that’s going to help the economy or help people find jobs. So it’s just… And this is classic Trump. He tweets it out from the toilet on Monday night and then he has his people write the bills or write the proclamation later on in the week to see what they can get away with.

Ray:

We’re talking with Jim Hacking, he’s immigration attorney in St Louis. We’re going to take a quick break and we will be back with Jim. I want to ask you what you would do if you were writing the script for Joe Biden, after this. We’re back with Jim Hacking, immigration attorney extraordinary in St Louis. How long have you been practicing law in St Louis?

Jim:

Since 1997.

Ray:

And your specialty and your one field of, you do such amazing work, is immigration law. I asked you earlier, and I’m not trying to make this political, but when we listened to you or I listened to you, and you’re so eloquent on this subject, it’s such a different message than the Democrats have that when they’re playing defense about the wall, they’re playing defense about open borders. When you articulate what you do, how would you, if you were writing Joe Biden’s speech on this subject, what would you think our country’s got to do to be the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Jim:

So, if I were Joe Biden, I would tap into the fact that immigrants are so hardworking. They start many more businesses than Americans. They create jobs. One of my heroes in the immigration community is that fellow who found a yogurt factory, became the Chobani company. It was a closed factory up in upstate New York, he turned it around and he’s hired thousands of US citizens and lawful current residents in an area where no one was hiring. That’s what I would talk about. I would highlight people like that. I would talk about the dreamers, the kids who came here when they were two or three, who’ve made their lives. I have a client named Carlos who came to the United States when he was two, he got a college degree he works at in Anheuser Busch, he’s on DACA, he’s barely here.

Jim:

The Supreme court might strike down DACA. He’s married to a US citizen, and because our immigration policies are so screwed up, kids like him can’t get status. There is no line. So, it’s the only way that there’s going to be real immigration reform, is not just for Joe Biden when he’s going to need to control the Senate and the house. President Obama had that and he didn’t do it, he instead poured everything into the ACA. So I think that immigration on the Democratic side is almost like abortion on the Republican side, where they dangle it out in front of us and they act like they’re going to do things. But I think Joe Biden, if he really wants to grab that progressive mantle that he’s trying to bring in the Bernie supporters, and I think he can still be a centrist, but you can also be pro-immigrant.

Jim:

And I think that you don’t have to be far to the left to show the contrast between you and Donald Trump. And so, you have a pro-immigrant agenda, you show how immigrants create jobs, you bring everybody on board and you get some smart people in immigration to really turn these things around. As soon as you become president, you’re going to sign a bunch of executive orders to undo a lot of the wreckage that President Trump has wrought. And then you’re going to start working through the regulatory process to repeal a lot of these regulations that have just made life so onerous for immigrants.

Ray:

And I asked that question because, instead of being not anti-immigrant, you can be pro-immigrant and carry a message that is cohesive. You made a point about one of your clients having waited 15 years, that can’t be laid at Donald Trump’s doorstep if it was 15 years. Why is our system been broken for so long before going back to when Donald Trump was a reality TV producer?

Jim:

Yeah. I don’t know the Democrats really have the stomach to really push it. They say that they do, and there certainly are Democratic leaders like Dick Durbin from Illinois and other people like that. But at the end of the day, I think it’s a political football that they can wave out there to dangle to people. I don’t know that they truly want reform. We can’t forget that the immigration laws haven’t really been updated since 1996 when Bill Clinton signed one of the harshest anti-immigrant bills when he was always trying to be tough on, quote unquote, crime.

Jim:

That made it much easier to deport people, really stripped a lot of the protections that were in the law for people who were being deported and made it harder for some people to stay in the United States. So there’s plenty of blame to go around. And I think that this is a real chance after you’ve had four years of just nasty pounding on immigrants, calling them rapists and saying they don’t send their best, and all you have to do is just stand back and look at Donald Trump and just remember what he’s done over these last four years.

Jim:

And I think you can tap into the vast majority of American people support immigration reform. So it’s not a radical notion anymore. It’s something that is very mainstream. And the fact that Donald Trump has gotten these 35% of people to vote together to spew this hate, it’s just going to take a little bit more of a progressive, forward thinking, educated approach. But I think it’s really going let Biden turn that around and let, if there’s the democratic Senate, turn the whole thing around. Because I think that the pendulum’s going to swing back hard, at least that’s my hope, but I won’t be if Donald Trump gets reelected. So I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Ray:

We’re speaking with Jim Hacking, immigration attorney in the city of St Louis. Jim, are your clients in a heightened state of unease because the Covid-19 crisis, beyond the obvious health concerns is that we all have?

Jim:

So the one that I think about immigration laws, it’s federal, right? So I get to represent people all over the country, and I do webinars every Tuesday where people can come and ask me questions for free for an hour, for whatever they want to ask me about. And, we get about 80, 90 people on those webinars, and you get a real pulse of where people are at. So I think absolutely that people are freaked out. They’re worried, they’re nervous, and like I said earlier, they’re really sad, right?

Jim:

So they’ve tried to follow all the rules. I mean, let’s not forget, the law’s the law. So Congress has passed these laws, these people have all tried to follow the law. And now because of Donald Trump signing this executive order that they wrote, probably on a napkin while they were sitting around thinking of all their anti-immigrant fantasies, that’s stopping immigration. Now obviously he’s a powerful man, the most powerful person in the country. But if you love somebody who’s an immigrant right now, you’re scared to death. There’s no doubt that people are scared, they’re nervous. I mean, you wouldn’t believe the level of freaked out in this that we’re seeing these days.

Ray:

Kind of a sad tale, isn’t it?

Jim:

Yeah, because I mean, I think President Obama who had been plenty tough on deportations and deported tons and tons of people. I think he had it right that you don’t have to have open borders, Democrats don’t have to say that you need to have open borders, but you do have to follow international law. You have to follow federal law and if you can, focus your resources on people who are committing crimes or people who keep sneaking into the United States. Other than that, there are tons and tons, millions of undocumented people in the United States who don’t have immigration status.

Jim:

And we have to have a realistic conversation about, what are we going to do with these people? And people might say, Oh Jim, you’re an immigration lawyer, you just want to make money off that. That’s not it. I come to it from a humanitarian viewpoint. I come from a… I view the glass as half full. I feel like we are all lucky to have been born here in the United States and I don’t know why we have to have this philosophy of I’ve got mine, screw you. And I think there’s ways to integrate everybody in the United States and I think that the immigrants who’ve come to St Louis over the last 30 years are proof positive of how this can work.

Ray:

And we have a wonderful Muslim community, as well as Hispanic community, and an Asian American community and others in this town. It’s really, I think an under sold part of our community.

Jim:

No doubt. It’s what gives us, certainly are great restaurants for sure.

Ray:

Now, just to wrap up, you do not favor just, open borders or the idea that no immigrant who commits a crime, violent crime in particular, be deported, right?

Jim:

There are people who talk about abolishing ICE. I believe that a nation has to be able to secure its borders. I think ICE has gone off the chain. They endorsed the president for the first time ever, President Trump, because they knew it would be good for job security. ICE is definitely messed up and needs tons of reform, but you do still have to have laws and rules and no one’s ever going to support someone who says, oh, just let everybody come in. That’s not how it works. But if we have a process and if we all agree on the process, then the rules should be applied uniformly, fairly and humanely.

Ray:

We have an office of ICE in St Louis, do we not?

Jim:

Oh yeah.

Ray:

Do you get your-

Jim:

Good guys down there.

Ray:

I was going to say, do you get your phone calls returned?

Jim:

Yes. There’s some decent folks down there, there’s no doubt. And I think a lot of people want to do the right thing, but I would ask myself, how can I work for this president? But that’s a different story. But yeah, the guys who are doing ICE, I mean, I think there are certainly just like in any profession, people who are abusive or mean or vindictive, but I think that some of the guys at least try to do things fairly.

Ray:

That’s interesting. Well if they’re listening, we’d love to have you on the air here at KTRS and say who’s in the know, because when we talked to the folks advocating for Alex Garcia in Maplewood for example, they say they can’t get their phone calls returned, but I guess you’ve been doing this long enough that they’ll talk to you.

Jim:

Yeah, I don’t know. Those are some good people working with Alex. I know that, that’s a sad situation and he’s got great lawyers over from the [inaudible 00:19:56] project, real good people. And they’re, like I said at the beginning, there are a lot of good immigration lawyers and there’s a lot of good advocates for immigrants here. And so I hope that if this discussion you and I are having means anything to anyone, and that is, what I always say is, elections have consequences. So I hope people are ready. I hope people are paying attention and they’re ready to fight because November is less than 200 days away. And immigration for me is a really important issue, but there’s all kinds of other reasons why we have to be ready, not just at the presidential level, but throughout.

Ray:

Attorney Jim Hacking, thank you for joining us. Stay safe and well, happy Ramadan and the best to you.

Jim:

Thank you, Ray. Thanks my brother, see you.

Ray:

We’ll be back after this.

 

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