Bernie Wolfsdorf and Big Bird.JPGDebate scorers and pollsters called it even.  Mitt Romney won the first Presidential debate, essentially by showing up. Barack Obama prevailed in the second, a verbal brawl, by departing the state of suspended animation, entering New York state, and manning up.

Observers of the Twittersphere honed in on one line — Mitt Romney’s non-responsive comment to a question in the second Presidential debate on pay equality (“I brought us whole binders full of, of women”).

Another remark, however, prompted intense reactions among immigration lawyers: 

[You] shouldn’t have to hire a lawyer to figure out how to get into this country legally.

Within minutes of the debate’s end, a Facebook group, “Immigration Education for Mitt Romney,” sprang into existence. The group’s “About” tab describes its raison d’être: “Since Mitt Romney seems to think that immigration law & policy can be simple, as he stated during the Presidential debate on 10-16-2012, we need to educate Mr. Romney about immigration law & policy.”

Immigration lawyer Randall Caudle posed the first question (for which I’ll provide a Rosetta Stone in brackets):

What do these acronyms mean & what is the immigration status of an individual with each of these? PIP [Parole in Place], AP [Advance Parole], OPT EAD [Optional Practical Training Employment Authorization Document], POSABAG [Period of Stay Authorized by the Attorney General], AOS [Adjustment of Status], VWP [Visa Waiver Program], ACWIA [American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act] Portability [the ability to change jobs or employers in the same or a similar occupational classification without losing AOS eligibility], AAO [Administrative Appeals Office] Appeal Pending, BIA [Board of Immigration Appeals] Appeal pending with or without motion to stay deportation (9th circuit or other circuit), LPR [Lawful Permanent Resident], USC [U.S. Citizen], CSPA [Child Status Protection Act] beneficiary, RFE [Request for Additional Evidence] for CGFNS [Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools, the International Commission on Healthcare Professions and the International Consultants of Delaware] Cert. for RN [Registered Nurse] or PT [Physical Therapist], CIMT [Crime involving Moral Turpitude], AgFel [Aggravated Felony], TA Admin Close [Trial Attorney Administrative Closure], CLPR [Conditional Lawful Permanent Resident], EWI [Entry without Inspection], ICE hold [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer], TN [Trade NAFTA {North American Free Trade Agreement}], NIV [Nonimmigrant Visa], IV [Immigrant Visa], OTM [Other than Mexican] (this one is complicated for your father & grandfather), & of course the easy one – DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals]?

 Another immigration lawyer, Susan Bond, replied to Mr. Caudle in two posts:

Brilliant Idea . . . . Wouldn’t it be great if Romney had to actually answer some of these questions. . . .

I don’t think we need doctors. If the medical system were efficient enough, we could just go into booths — much like the airport screening booths, and with the wave of a wand, we would know what ails us and learn the cure. Diagnosis completed, and when you exit the booth, a prescription comes out of a machine with the swipe of a credit card. What’s so hard about that?

Given Mr. Romney’s promise to shrink government, encourage “undocumented, illegals (sic)” to engage in “self-deportation,” and squeeze the costs out of health care, a kiosk-based, self-service approach is at least a consistent, if oddly aberrant, set of policy prescriptions for the über-contortionistic Flipper of flip-floppers.

The former governor’s underlying proposition, however, that our legal immigration system is so mind-bogglingly complex that it must be simplified, is a worthy notion — as I’ve urged in prior posts (“Immigration Law is Too Complex and Important for Johnny or Jane One-Notes,” and “Two Market-Based Proposals for Immigration Reform: Cap-and-Trade or Uncap-and-Grow?“).  Indeed, the system’s very complexity is the answer to the naive question posed by poorly informed Americans: “Why don’t they just get in line and follow the rules?” — as Mike Flynn, Shikha Dalmia and Terry Colon of make plain in this chart (click for full size):  Reason Immigration Chart.jpg

If, miraculously, the laws and procedures were simplified, I would still recommend (accusations of self-serving behavior notwithstanding) that all but the most simple and clearly deserving requests for legal immigration benefits should be pursued only with competent legal representation and counsel.  Even the seemingly simple benefits program, DACA, requires help from an experienced immigration lawyer, as Senator Dick Durbin and Rep. Luis Gutierrez apparently have learned by now

Immigration lawyers are entrusted with lives, fortunes and destinies yet to manifest.  Former immigration agency spokesperson, Karen Kraushaar, had it right when she said: “Immigration law is a mystery and a mastery of obfuscation, and the lawyers who can figure it out are worth their weight in gold.”

In short, I’ll believe that a President Romney will eliminate the need for immigration lawyers by streamlining the ways to enter and work legally in America after he accomplishes a comparable hat trick, that is, just as soon as he simplifies the tax laws and fires his accountant.