Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Staying Ahead of the Immigration "Aircraft"

When
I first learned to fly airplanes many years ago, an expression which I first found
to sound rather unusual would soon come to be a maxim inculcated into all future
training:

"Stay Ahead of the
Aircraft."  

Put
simply, "staying ahead of the aircraft" simply means the process of continual awareness of what lies ahead, not just in the next mile or minute but as far ahead as you can reasonably anticipate.  Another phrase was that one should "keep one's head
outside of the cockpit" (figuratively, unless you want to eat goosefeathers) to ensure that you could anticipate
anything which would affect your flight pattern and focus...anything Mother Nature, technology, or bumbling pilots could throw your way.

Early in my initial training, I learned about this first hand on the morning of what would be my first solo flight.  It was a beautiful day in Punta Gorda, Florida, and Greg, one of the coolest flight instructors on earth was in the right seat.   We were doing "touch and goes" -- a continuous looping pattern of landing, rolling, and taking off again, which is one of the key forms of initial aviation practice.  By this time I was flying the little Cessna 152 all by myself, and Greg was teaching me all kind of cool tricks, such as how to use the doors to turn the plane left and right in the event of a rudder failure...really cool stuff.

I was coming in for a landing, about 300 feet from the numbers, when I had my first "runway incursion"...meaning an unauthorized aircraft was on the runway.  The airport (at least back then) didn't have a tower, so pilots would self announce their intentions, keeping each other posted.  I'd been in pattern for awhile, announced my touch and go...and an airplane rolled out EXACTLY where I was just about to land.  Greg and I looked at each other with huge eyes and I immediately put the throttle back in full, eased flaps, and went about 50 feet over him as my instructor, a pious born again Christian, uttered the only expletives I would ever hear from his mouth.  As I ascended, the airplane on the runway started doing a 360 degree turn...scanning for other aircraft...while still in the middle of the runway!

Greg went BALLISTIC.  After failing to raise the offending pilot on the radio, he asked me to roll back to the office.  Turned out that the culprit was  an
eighty-something year old gentleman pulled out onto the runway on which I was
clear to land, oblivious of my imminent descent.  Turned out he "didn't like using the radio".  Go figure.  In any event, still somewhat startled by what had just happened, I was basically floored when Greg came back the plane, still bristling and said, "Ok, go, time for your solo.  You're ready."

I'll never know, as other trainee pilots do, whether the adrenalin and buzz of those next 6 or 7 touch and goes were purely do to my exuberance at flying solo or leftover from the hair-raising octogenarian-triggered emergency.  But it sure felt good.

Practicing
immigration law is a lot like "Staying Ahead of the Aircraft", and that's not as tangential a stretch as you might think.  When a lawyer does his or her job properly,
he or she is able to anticipate issues, problems, and even some semi-unforeseeable
circumstances which, if properly anticipated, can be more swiftly
resolved.  
Like
everything else, preparation and awareness are the main issues. 
This does not just mean taking clear client intake notes (enumerating not only
the specific personal data of the client or prospect, but the annotation of
tactical strategies and practical issues which could arise in the course of
adjudication).  It means using our creative lawyering skills to anticipate, re-route, and address problems...BEFORE they arise.

One real example:  routine family
visa case – clearly approvable – where the petitioner had been unemployed for a number of months.  A professional with a stable work history, 
there did not appear to be any issues involving solvency.  Nonetheless, because of the very strict
requirements of the Affidavit of Support imposed by the USCIS, we were
concerned.
    Anticipating this, supplemental affidavits of support – which
really opened up a whole new can of worms (for complex reasons)-- were prepared but not submitted.  But we had them ready in the event
questions arose at the time of the interview.  They DIDN'T, but if they HAD, it would have been resolved then and there...without a miserable client, more expense, a second appointment, and all the resulting hassle.

In
immigration law, "Staying Ahead of the Aircraft" means staying awake and aware to your client's specific and factual circumstances through reliable and continuous communication, awareness of evolving regulatory decisions, and a good understanding of the particulars of the client's plans, family, and objectives.


P.S. I've gotten a couple of you asking me "what happened to the Miata cam?"  Apparently the USG has gotten wind of my iconoclastic, immigration-dogma-smashing plans because Customs has intercepted my $15 USB mic shipped from the UK and won't release it.  Stay tuned.

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