Last week, Benach Collopy attorneys Ava Benach, Dree Collopy and Adi Nuñez traveled to New Orleans to attend the 2017 Annual Conference of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). As we approached New Orleans, we knew that we were flying into a storm, literally and figuratively. Tropical Storm Cindy stood menacingly off the shores, while the hurricane that has been this administration was blowing all around us. Cindy turned out not to be a menace and it remains to be seen just how damaging this Presidency will be despite all its sound and fury. After three days of strategizing, commiserating, and planning with our colleagues across the country, we are more ready than ever to resist the administration’s nefarious plans to harm our clients, friends and communities.
BC attorneys were busy from the get-go. Adi Nuñez was a featured presenter on the opening night of the conference, when she combined with Professor Shoba Sivaprasad from Penn State Law School and Maggio Kattar partner Anna Gallagher to discuss the current state of the prosecutorial discretion and provide effective strategies to practitioners to still seek this important benefit from U.S. immigration authorities.
Dree Collopy barely had a moment to herself. Dree participated in a “Meet the Authors” panel, where lawyers are able to ask the experts about their books. Dree is the author of AILA’s Asylum Primer, the most comprehensive book on U.S. asylum law. Dree then sprinted to present before a standing room only crowd in a panel on Central American asylum claims. Throughout the next several days, Dree chaired multiple meetings to set national strategy and objectives in protecting the rights of asylum seekers and refugees.
But no one had a bigger conference than Ava Benach. Ava was part of a panel offering case strategy and guidance on seeking criminal and fraud waivers in removal proceedings. In addition to meetings, Ava had a chance to be celebrated on Saturday, when she was awarded the Edith Lowenstein Award for Excellence in Advancing the Practice of Immigration Law, one of the organization’s top honors. It was a very moving moment to watch the immigration bar express its affection and warmth for Ava, while respecting all she has accomplished for her clients and for immigrants.