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Remembering Edward L. Dubroff

by Jonathan E. Avirom

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Eddy Dubroff passed away on November 10, 1979. Prior to his death, he practiced for more than fifty years in the field of Immigration and Naturalization Law. He was truly the heart and soul of what was then known as the Immigration Law Bar.

Ed started his career in 1940, working for the INS as a Naturalization Examiner. In 1946, he decided to enter private practice as an immigration lawyer and shortly thereafter, along with the late Joshua S. Koenigsberg, and about eighteen others, founded what was then called the Association of Immigration and Nationality Lawyers (AINL).

Ed was a member of the Board of Governors. He was national president in 1953, and for many years he edited the original Immigration Bar Bulletin [the precusor to the AILA Immigration Journal]. He testified on behalf of the Association before both Houses of Congress on many occasions. It was largely because of his efforts that Congress came to know and respect our Association.

From 1978 until 1979, when he died, Ed Dubroff was the "National Office of the immigration lawyers. During that period he was the Executive Assistant to Steven Mukamal and I when we were national presidents. He did everything possible for us. Since there was no national office and he had no staff, he was carried on the letterhead of the law firm of Barst & Mukamal as "Counsel." His salary was paid by Barst and Mukamal, as were all the office expenses.

Ed's many achievements included receiving AINL's "Man of the Year Award." He was so highly regarded by his peers that his photograph appeared on a brochure that the Association sent to young lawyers who inquired about our Association.

Ed's value cannot be described by his accomplishments alone. He was a gentleman and a scholar, and was especially helpful to lawyers, like me, who needed guidance and assistance. When I became New York Chapter Chair, Ed was particularly supportive and advised me on effective approaches to take with the District Director on behalf of the Chapter.

Ed was most proud of the work he did as Chair of the Liaison Committee between the New York Chapter and the District Director. Back in 1979, it was not easy for a bunch of angry immigration lawyers to meet with the District Director. But, Ed was so widely respected by INS staff that they allowed him to chair the first monthly meeting ever held with a District Director, anywhere. I'm proud to say that those chapter liaison meetings still continue, not only in New York, but all over the country. And, his efforts were a forerunner of many diverse liaisons now conducted with all levels of the INS.

Ed also prepared the Association's amicus briefs, and argued the cases before the Board of Immigration Appeals. He managed numerous appeals to the U.S. Federal Courts.

Unofficial historian and parliamentarian, he knew and cherished all of our Association's informal customs and traditions. He fielded hundreds of calls from members seeking advice, or a reference to past disseminations of the Association. Coincidentally, I was President of the Association during the Iranian Hostage Crisis. As a result of that action, INS Commissioner David Crosland ordered that all Iranians in the U.S., regardless of status, report immediately to INS for processing. Needless to say, this created a lot of fury and excitement among the members of our Association. Ed and I were literally "of counsel" on a daily basis to a thousand or more immigration lawyers who called seeking advice on their individual cases.

In preparing this biography, I thought it would be appropriate to ask other AILA past presidents, who knew and worked with Ed, to express their remembrances:

Leon Wildes said it most appropriately: Ed typified the personal nature of the relationship of attorneys who are the members of AILA. His accessibility, particular to younger and less experienced colleagues, made us feel free in consulting with more experienced lawyers on thorny immigration problems.... Ed had the confidence and trust of the INS, which respected his integrity, and he made use of that confidence in benefitting AILA in every way that he could.

Steve Mukamal called to my attention that Ed single handedly shaped much of the Congressional legislation in the immigration field during those years. Most of the powerful Congressmen (i.e., Emanuel Celler and John Rooney) who had influence in committees involved with immigration called Ed on a regular basis to get his advice on proposed legislation.

Jim Orlow said "Ed never forgot the value of ridicule. He did not lose perspective of what we, as a group, were trying to do no matter what happened. Ed was a very religious man."

Leon Rosen recalls that he and Ed testified before a sub-committee of the House Judiciary Committee in 1969. Eddy argued very effectively that the former provision in H-1, requiring that a position be of a temporary nature, be changed, and the word "temporary" removed. He also testified that the former requirement, that H-1 aliens be of " distinguished merit and ability," was inappropriate and that the statute should be amended to apply to professionals whether or not they are of "distinguished merit and ability." Congress followed Ed's suggestions and, with minor amendments throughout the years, the H-1 definition has remained the way Eddy told Congress it should be.

I cannot close this brief biography of Ed Dubroff without remembering his non-intellectual side. When he joined the firm of Barst & Mukamal, his relationship with the younger members of the firm was as a contemporary, despite his age. His sense of humor and personality enable him to join in the daily "give and take" of a busy law firm.

At each of his activities as a lawyer and as a member of the Association, he always included his wife, Ida, bringing her with him to all of the events he attended. Ida's "rugelach" will always be remembered as world class by all who had the privilege of eating them.

All of us who knew him will remember Ed as "Mr. Immigration Lawyer" and as the heart and soul of what is now the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

--Avirom is a Past President of AILA.

An award is made each year in memory of Mr. Dubroff. For details, visit the
Dubroff Memorial Writing Contest portion of AILF's website.

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