White House Official Shamed Off Stage at Annual Conference of Immigration Lawyers

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD Cecilia Muoz, the White Houses Director of Domestic Policy Council, was met with silence, jabs and jeers, and booed off the stage at the annual American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) conference yesterday.

Several immigration attorneys and advocates who have been at the frontlines of the fight toend the detention of refugee mothers and childrenstood up in the front of the room with signs declaring Shame in response to how the Obama Administration has been treating these refugees.


Muoz took the stage at the annual conference with classic political speech. She praised the audience for their work, touted past achievements of the Administration such as theexecutive action announcements of November 2014, and deflected criticism onto Republicans. By the end of her speech though, she appeared flustered and frustrated by the constant berating comments from immigration attorneys.

Youre jailing children! exclaimed attorney Sheila Starkey, while holding up a photo of a boy with the word Shame on it.

Silent protest during speech by Cecilia Munoz, White House advisor on immigration, over family detention #AILAAC15 pic.twitter.com/vNwyNeSFad

Allissa Wickham (@lissawicks) June 18, 2015

Several other attorneys started chanting End Family Detention andMuoz responded bystating that Not One More was a catchy slogan, but not an enforcement strategy, and implored advocates to work with the Administration to craft an enforcement strategy.

@julito77 @rhujber yup scattered applause, I'd say. Mood was tense. Booing after she left the stage.

Allissa Wickham (@lissawicks) June 18, 2015

That seems to have backfired, as Marisa Franco, one of the organizers with the grassroots campaign, laterstated in response:

Instead of targeting efforts for justice like Not1More, Muoz shouldve taken this opportunity to announce an end to immigrant detention. The White Houses job to make immigration policy more humane is far from complete and we will continue to push this administration.


It is a bit strange and out of touch for the White House to take cheap political shots at the very campaign that has helped to shape immigration enforcement policy. The comment also indicates that the Administration is not serious about making tangible changes to the enforcement machinery that advocates have been demanding for a while: reducing deportations, ending incarceration of families, restoring due process for asylum seekers, and eliminating the detention of vulnerable populations.

Muoz should have used the platform provided to her at the annual conference to announce further reforms to the enforcement machinery as listed above. By not doing so, and trying to deflect criticism onto the GOP and grassroots organizers, her speech failed to be anything more than self-serving.

Law360 published a story about yesterdays event and included a statement from a White House official:

Asked about the protest, a White House official told Law360 in a statement that the Obama administration regularly seeks out opportunities to engage with attorneys and other stakeholders, including immigrants themselves, about the Department of Homeland Securitys immigration enforcement policies.

We continue to engage extensively in assessing the impact of the response to last years unprecedented influx of Central American children and families at the Southwest border, and these conversations are always helpful, the official said. Engagement with stakeholders plays an important role in informing the administrations decision-making on these important and complex issues.

UPDATEA video of Muozs speech is now on YouTube:


Prerna Lal is immigration attorney in Washington, D.C.. The views expressed in this article are her own.