My name is Jane Vukmer, and I am a third-year student at the University of New Hampshire School of Law. This summer, I worked as the Trans Asylum Fellow for Benach Collopy and Whitman-Walker. The Benach Collopy and Whitman-Walker legal partnership provides pro bono legal services to transgender asylum seekers who have been victimized, abused, tortured, and persecuted in their country of origin. I have had the great privilege to work on seventeen different asylum cases involving transgender women from Central America who fled their country due to persecution based on gender identity.
Just a few short months ago I was studying abroad and living in Madrid, having never lived in the United States under the new Trump administration. Every night I would watch headlines about the new administration’s policies in relation to immigration streaking across the screen and I would sigh with frustration and shame as my host family would question how I felt about everything. Earnestly, I was downtrodden and felt rather helpless and complacent in the way that I was not doing anything constructive to help the situation—I really just wanted to know what I could do.
Immigration in Iowa: Countering Dominant Narratives by Lily Hamilton* *Lily Hamilton is an intern at Benach Collopy where she works on asylum issues, LGBT immigration issues, and the fine art of satisfying the Immigration Court Practice Manual. I stumbled across an article awhile back on the New York Times site that sparked my interest. As a native Iowan, naturally any article from the Times mentioning my home state would give me pause.
It’s intern week at Benach Collopy! During this week, we spotlight the work that our interns have done over the summer. We show some of their personalities, their goals and the hard work that they put in for us and our clients. This summer we have had three interns and a fellow (hashtag idea!). When looking for earnest young talent, Benach Collopy draws on one of our most productive wells- Iowa.
The future of President Obama’s program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is the subject of intense speculation and even more significant anxiety. Worry over the fate of the program increased significantly this week after Secretary of Homeland Security General John Kelly told the Congressional Hispanic Caucus that it was not clear that DACA could survive a court challenge being threatened by ten states against the program.
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.
There are moments in life when the true nature of something is revealed in the fog. Sometimes, an object will only reveal itself slowly as the fog lifts. Other times the object shines brightly cutting through the fog with its clarity. For example, as the evidence of Russian interference and espionage in the 2016 Presidential election mounts, the true nature of the Russian government is becoming increasing apparent to many in the U.S.
Earlier this month, Ava Benach received the Fenner Award for Public Service from Whitman Walker Health Legal Services. She got it for doing what she does best– winning cases! The award recognizes the unique relationship that Benach Collopy has formed with Whitman Walker Health. Whitman Walker Health is the premier health care provider serving the LGBT community in Washington DC. Since its founding in the early days of the HIV crisis, WWH has expanded its services to provide more holistic assistance to its community.
I have been waiting to write this one for decades. Meher is one of my favorite people and on May 18, 2017, she will take the oath of United States citizenship in her hometown of New York, NY. It was a 16 year journey that Meher and I began in our twenties. We have moved across jobs, law firms, cities, and countries together. Meher and I both overcame challenges to find enduring peace at this point in our lives.
Angela and Omar Totti Ramirez are our clients of the month for April 2017. Omar, a Bolivian citizen, recently received his residence based upon his marriage to Angela, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Bolivia. We thought we had seen it all before we handled this case. It started off as a simple marriage-based application for residence, the type we have done thousands of times. Angela had been married before.