Quote of the day/week/however long

"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does."
~William James

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Of Course I Refused Him - He Used an Attorney!

Regarding Anastasio Somoza Garcia, the ruthless (but non-communist) dictator of Nicaragua, in about 1939 FDR purportedly remarked "Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch."

While Madam hopes that her faithful readers will never suspect that she herself would use language of that color, she uses it here to press a point: your (president, child, wife, dog, recalcitrant rosebush) not being perfect for one of any number of good reasons is not necessarily a reason for you to ditch (him, her, it) out of hand.

In that same line of thinking, the fact that a visa applicant has employed an attorney to help with the paperwork does not automatically mean that the applicant is up to no good.

While there are many good reasons to remember that old warning that one might become known by the company one keeps (Aesop, Proverbs 13.20, your mother), Madam, for all her dislike of incompetent and shady immigration attorneys, still fully understands the reasons why a perfectly honest, legitimate applicant for consular services might choose to use the services of a - preferably competent, honest - one.

Madam suggests that one think of it this way: When you need your lawn seeded, you might try to do it yourself. Or you might find that your own skills lean more toward - say - baking, sewing, training cats, balancing budgets, ruling small nations, or drying the points of your '63 MG after driving through a puddle, and will choose to employ someone who is far more certain to turn your mudhole into a lush green paradise than you are.

That is not a bad idea. It is not a criminal idea. It might cost money, but the last time Madam looked, very few Americans were totally adverse to the thought of spending money for something they wanted.

And while consular officers are aware of (and sometimes even read through and understand, although not always) the complex paperwork that many visa applications require, they sometimes lose track of the first moment they faced such a stack in ConGen and thought blindly, "Sh*t! I knew I should have taken up organic farming!"

... or maybe not.

In any case, Madam, for all her aforementioned dislike of (some) immigration attorneys, would nevertheless caution consular officers to think twice about refusing an applicant for the sole reason that he or she chose to hire someone else to fill out forms neatly and - one innocently hopes - correctly. And she hopes to never again hear what she heard so often, for so many years, "Of course I refused him. He used an attorney!"

Sunday, September 8, 2013

People, Process, Product

Madam has only rarely been attracted to much younger men, but she will admit to you right now that she has a serious thing for Marcus Lemonis.

This man, a successful businessman of Greek extraction, is featured on a television series called “The Profit.” Madam strongly suggests that every consular manager find this series on whatever kind of media he or she can, and mainline it.

 Madam's new heartthrob, LISTENING to an employee

Why should a ‘reality’ show about improving mid-sized businesses matter to consular affairs? Because, believe it or not, like it or not, consular business IS business. You have employees. You have customers. You produce products. You might call these assets FSNs or LES; applicants; visas; passports; notarials. Nevertheless, disregarding business nomenclature, disregarding sensible procedures, disregarding the lessons of well-run businesses, can lead to dysfunction, carelessness, inefficiency, resentment, ineffectiveness, malfeasance, and self-generating and repetitive crises. Not to mention catastrophically bad IG inspections.

What is Lemonis’ magic? Listen to him explain:
“The boss must be the first person in in the morning, and the last person out at night."
"You have to run the numbers."
"Respect your people, your process, and your product."
"Treat your people right. Treat your customers right. Treat your product right."
"Under-promise and over-deliver.”

Nonsense, some consular manager might say. I don’t manage a factory.

Um, how can Madam say this kindly? Yes, you do.

You should want to promote quality, efficiency, and courtesy. 
You should want to produce the best possible product as quickly and correctly as possible.
You should want to put great people into great jobs, and let them run with them. 
You should want to give 90% of your attention to the 90% of customers who are good ones. The bad customers – those whom it can be so much fun to dig into, to investigate, to discuss, to interview at length, to talk about while the ordinary, uninteresting, honest customers fall asleep in the waiting room – need to go wait over there and have some coffee, it’s going to be a while.

You should want to be Marcus Lemonis.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Thoughts on AILA - Regretably, Not the Beachwear

Some time ago, Madam wrote a very brief polemic on the subject of immigration attorneys. Today, for the benefit of some who were still living out there in the real world when the piece first wandered into the blogosphere, and who might be even slightly impressed or intimidated by folks who will write a single letter in six different fonts, and wear mid-priced suits that were actually altered to fit in America, she will take a moment to include here a slightly longer version that she hopes makes the same point:

With apologies to the half-dozen highly competent immigration attorneys that Madam knows -- what the heck is with the rest of them?  Is there no test of competency or even basic knowledge before an 'immigration attorney' can hang a shingle?

At AILA conventions one can only be stunned by the incredibly clueless questions some attorneys ask, and the information they offer (or, to put it more vernacularly, the nonsense they try to sell. Loudly.).  In panel presentations, it is not uncommon that many audience members are so ignorant of the law and so instantly hostile toward US consular representatives on the panel that their fellow attorneys have to shush them and drag them back into their seats.

Back in the office, one of these alleged attorneys might send a letter - in the various fonts alluded to above - that expresses high and mighty indignation about a case that hasn't been going his/her way and which - since the attorney can't be bothered to find relevant legal decisions (or since such decisions don't exist) quotes - at length - decisions that actually have no bearing on the case.

Those same - or other - letters might also and frequently quote - at length - from interviews that the attorney did not attend, punctuated by not-so-subtle insults and implications of consular incompetence.

Mes enfants, do not let them intimidate you.
Tales from within AILA's ranks has entertained and delighted Madam for a few years now -  AILA spending nearly a million dollars a year to hire lobbyists to push or oppose certain state-level bills without polling the membership to determine what the majority believes their position should be; AILA attorneys desperately seeking from one another advice on how to present fraudulent applications so they will fool consular officers; AILA itself presenting only one candidate for its internal offices; AILA apparently holding board of governors' meetings - supposedly open to all members - in exotic places to which most members cannot afford to travel; AILA banning certain mouthy members who complain about the above activities from the group's internal message board - fun business, and, Madam hopes, sufficiently indicative of AILA's apparent skill and professionalism that consular officers will be able to successfully resist the temptation to feel in any way intimidated, troubled, or impressed when attorneys' letters and visits loom.

Read, listen, and think for yourself. Good job.