Remarks of Eric H. Holder, Jr.

Deputy Attorney General

INS New Attorney Training Conference

Washington, D.C.

June 16, 1999

Good afternoon. I'm delighted to have this opportunity to address the newest members of the Immigration and Naturalization Service's legal team. I would like to begin by welcoming everyone to the Department of Justice family.

This class of new INS attorneys is pretty evenly divided between experienced lawyers and those who come directly from law school as part of the Department's program for honors graduates. (As I did), you could have chosen positions in private practice. But you decided to answer the call to public service, and work for INS. We are grateful for the choice you have made, and, in return, you will receive experience that cannot be duplicated anywhere else. You have played a significant role in the Service's litigation efforts from the moment you walked in the door. In addition, you have been, and will continue to be, entrusted with an extraordinarily high level of responsibility very early in your INS career.

There will certainly be times in the months and years ahead when you will feel overwhelmed and underappreciated and ask, "What have I gotten myself into?" In fact, some of you may have been asking that question repeatedly since Tuesday morning. Representing the Department of Justice in administrative removal proceedings is an important, yet often difficult, task. It does, however, offer considerable rewards to those who measure the value of their work by the impact it has on the United States and its citizens.

You are in a powerful position because of INS' unique role as a gatekeeper. You will help determine who enters our nation, and, as you do this, you could be changing the legal landscape.

According to the great jurist Louis Brandeis, "Modification implies growth. It is the life of the law." You have probably already discovered that immigration law is an exciting and fast growing field. Since the 1980s, social, economic, and political changes at home and abroad have made immigration highly visible and extremely controversial. The strong public interest in immigration policy has radically transformed the law. Many familiar precepts have disappeared, and others have been significantly reshaped. In doing your jobs, you will be building new foundations on a daily basis.

You may find yourselves applying the employer sanctions provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 ("IRCA"), or the modified grounds for exclusion sections of the Immigration Act of 1990 ("IMMACT 90"), or the new removal proceedings portions of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act ("IIRIRA"). You may have to determine which parts of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act ("AEDPA") still apply, and which ones were overruled by IIRIRA. Keeping up with the changes in immigration law will constantly test your diligence and dedication. By passing this test, however, you will remain on the cutting edge of a rapidly-evolving field, and in a position to help shape its future.

Since October, we have petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to grant certiorari in about a half-dozen cases that evolved out of actions taken by INS attorneys as part of their daily duties. So far, two of the cases, INS v. Aguirre-Aguirre and Reno v.American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, have been argued and decided. The next immigration case that the Court rules on may arise from a proceeding in which you represented the United States.

Working as an attorney for INS offers you another opportunity that may be even more unique for lawyers than shaping the legal landscape -- the chance to administer justice. Much of your work involves people seeking some sort of relief from the requirements of the law, but your job is not to stand steadfast in opposition to these requests in all instances. We want you to explore all aspects of a claim and exercise your judgment in forming the Government's position. If someone has a valid claim for relief from removal or for some other benefit under the immigration laws, you should see that it is granted. Your job is, first and foremost, to do justice.

You will be able to take advantage of all the opportunities offered in your INS career and become a highly successful immigration attorney by following the lead of the late Charles Gordon, a former INS General Counsel and author of the seminal treatise on immigration law and procedure. Throughout his distinguished career, he never lost sight of the simple fact that behind every case there is a human being. Neither should you. The only thing I require of all of you is that you do Justice in each and every decision you'll make as a Department of Justice Attorney.

Thank you, and good luck to all of you in your careers with INS.