One morning in April of 2015, we had the honor of meeting Selamawit Chale for the first time. She came to our office, broken, hurting, and terrified, but at the same time, her inner strength was palpable. We learned that Selam was once a bright and hopeful young woman, anxious to make a difference in the world and to contribute to her communities; however, traumatic events in her childhood, followed by years of emotional and physical abuse at the hands of her husband had silenced her.
On May 4, 1970, U.S. National Guardsmen shot and killed four people protesting the Vietnam War. The massacre, known as the Kent State shootings, topped a tumultuous decade that spurred a lot of violence against those making then-controversial claims to civil rights. In the aftermath of the shooting, many Americans blamed the protesting students and cited violations of law allegedly committed by the protestors. What was not in dispute was that four young people lost their lives that day at the hand of troops acting under the flag of the United States.
We have heard a lot about the “Caravan” of immigrants making its way north through Mexico from the Northern Triangle- El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala- of Central America. Once numbering over 1200 people, the remaining 150-200 members Caravan arrived at the U.S. border to request refuge in the United States. When they got there, they were told that the U.S. was full. There was not even a manger to house them.
What a year! 2017 will go down as one of the weirdest years we can remember. And for all the terrible news, we will remember this year as one of tremendous change and growth. On December 22, 2017, we will officially occupy our new office space at 4530 Wisconsin Avenue. While it is hard to leave downtown Washington DC, driving past the White House has lost nearly all of its charm this year.
This month, we are pleased to honor Angie Salguero as our Client of the Month. Angie, a transgender woman from El Salvador, won her case for asylum last month in front of the immigration judge in Baltimore, MD. Angie’s story of violence and persecution from a very young age included physical abuse by the police and gangs, the loss of family, a dangerous trip to the United States, and stay in immigration detention.
Our website looks subtly different. When you visit our new offices (soon!) or open our emails, you’re greeted with a fresh, clean vibe. Today, we’re excited to unveil the new look of Benach Collopy! Why the new look? Candidly, our old look was pretty boring. While it was clean and professional, it was also a little trite and expected from a law firm. That’s simply not us.
This one makes us so happy. Reina Mercado is a catracha (native of Honduras) who arrived to the U.S. undocumented in the early 90s. Following the destruction wrought by Hurricane Mitch in October 1998, the Attorney General designated Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Hondurans on January 5, 1999 and Reina was eligible for it. The government may designate a country for TPS when there is a catastrophic situation in that country, such as war or natural disasters, that makes it inhumane to remove individuals to that country at that time.
I’m Sophie Macklem-Johnson, and I am about to be a senior at Grinnell College (Dree’s alma mater). I am majoring in History and Spanish, and have a concentration in Latin American Studies. I have been speaking Spanish and learning about Latin America since I was started Kindergarten at a Spanish immersion elementary school in Minnesota. I am sure my parents couldn’t have foreseen how much of an impact their decision to send me to this public school rather than the one in our neighborhood would have on my worldview, values, and career aspirations.
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.
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.