“Today, we make history together,” said Allen Orr, newly elected president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), during his installation speech. As the first African American president in the organization’s 75-year history, he called on all members of the community to support each other and place greater importance on unity.
Orr stated that his childhood years, which he spent on a family farm in Valdosta, Georgia, had a significant impact on his career path. From the age of 5, he knew he wanted to be a lawyer, although his initial goal was to practice environmental law. After graduating from Morehouse College, a historically black college of which Martin Luther King, Jr. is an alumnus, he earned his Juris Doctor from The Howard University School of Law.
During the second year of his legal education, Orr took on a summer job at an EB-5 firm, which marked the beginning of his involvement with AILA. He went on to work at a global law firm as an immigration attorney for more than 12 years. In 2011, he started his own practice, Orr Immigration Law Firm P.C., based in Washington, DC.
Orr was installed as AILA’s President for the 2021-2022 term on June 10. In an interview with EB5 Investors Magazine, he shared his insights into his new role as president of AILA, his goals regarding the future of the association, as well as the current state of the immigration industry, and the EB-5 space in particular.
You are AILA’s 75th president, and the first African American president in the organization’s history. How do you feel about this?
This is an exciting opportunity. I am now in the center of all decision making for the organization. I get to implement the diversity I wanted to see as a new member. I got to appoint over 100 of our members to leadership opportunity.
What are your top goals as president of AILA?
The mission of every president is to meet the goals of the annual plan by expanding the membership and enhancing the member experience. Most members hunger for information. I want to ensure that we are providing timely information and insight to our members. I have created volunteer leadership that includes every portion of the membership so that new members can see themselves in the leadership role in the organization.
How do you think the pandemic has impacted the immigration industry?
The pandemic compacted the market, however, there are signs of recovery. Embassies are slowly reopening, although the pandemic, globally, is far from over. In some places, the vaccinations are just starting to be administered. The next step for immigration attorneys is continuing to be flexible to changing immigration rules and practices. The goal continues to be keeping our clients informed of the latest options and wait times for visa processing and issuances.
What is your opinion about the reauthorization of the EB-5 program?
Uncertainty – this program has always faced uncertainty and high risk. I think the bill will be reauthorized as that is the right move for the American people. It is time to make the program permanent.
What do you think can be done about the EB-5 backlog and redeployment issues?
Redeployment is a new policy that needs clear regulations. Congress should move quickly to remove dependents from the visa counts for EB-5 visas and increase the number.