This summer, I have had the great privilege of working for Benach Collopy on transgender asylum cases as the Fellow for Trans Asylum. Through a partnership with Whitman-Walker Health Legal Services, I have had the opportunity to work on 11 different asylum cases for transgender women from Central America, Mexico, and Peru. Each of these women were forced to flee their country due to persecution based on their gender identity.
Our client of the month for June 2016 is Julia Marquez. Ms. Marquez fled her native Venezuela with her son after suffering systematic and targeted attacks by the Venezuelan government and the government-backed paramilitary groups. Ms. Marquez was targeted in Venezuela because, as a journalist and political activist, she dared to expose the corrupt and discriminatory practices of the Chavez regime and was dedicated to bringing democracy back to Venezuela.
“Ok, I’d be willing to stipulate to humanitarian asylum.” We were approximately 30 minutes into the recess the Immigration Judge took, during which we were supposed to negotiate a favorable solution for our client, when DHS said the words we had been waiting to hear since we first met our client in October. We both thought, “Oh my gosh, really???” but when Professor Michelle Mendez leaned over and whispered to our client in Spanish that she was going to get asylum, we knew this was really happening—our client was going to be safe.
Even as the Obama administration takes steps to protect transgender children in schools and provide access to health care for trans people, the President’s illiberal approach to immigration continues to affect trans women in predictable and violent ways. As accolades were heaped on the administration from transgender advocates, the administration announced the creation of a new detention facility designed to hold trans detainees in Alvarado, Texas. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a 36 bed enclave in the 700 bed facility that will be dedicated to trans detainees and will, in the words of ICE, operate along the most advanced lines of transgender care.
This is a big week at Benach Collopy as a number of important projects are coming together and we are very excited to share them with you. First, we are very pleased to introduce Maria Celina Marquez as the inaugural Benach Collopy- Whitman Walker Health Fellow for Trans Asylum. This fellowship is a collaboration between Benach Collopy and Whitman Walker Health, to provide a law student with a summer fellowship to work on asylum cases for transgender people.
We are thrilled to introduce you to Dr. Aparna Pande, our April 2016 Client of the Month and a new permanent resident. Several months ago, we obtained an EB-1 approval for Dr. Pande as an outstanding researcher in the field of international politics of South Asia. Dr. Pande is the Director of the Initiative on the Future of India and South Asia at the Hudson Institute.
Benach Collopy celebrates our first International Women’s Day as an entirely woman-owned law firm. Not only that, Benach Collopy, for the moment, is staffed exclusively by women. On this International Women’s Day, we reflect not only on our mothers and sisters, but also on the many women clients we have helped over the years and today. We remain awed by their strength, their courage and their willingness to risk it all for their children and their families.
I have been so lucky to get to know so many brave, hard-working, family-oriented, and generous people from all over the globe. They all shared one thing in common: a willingness to take a chance to come to the U.S. to be the person they knew they were meant to be. -Ava Benach Description of Fellowship Surging violence against transgender and gender nonconforming communities worldwide continue to force a record number of individuals to seek protection at U.S.
We are extremely excited to announce that Benach Ragland LLP is now Benach Collopy LLP as Thomas Ragland departs the firm at the end of January 2016. Partners Ava Benach, Dree Collopy and Jennifer Cook will continue to practice immigration law the only way we know how: strongly committed to achieving the goals of Benach Collopy clients and advancing the rights of immigrant communities. At the same time, we express our most sincere gratitude and affection for Thomas Ragland.
Our Client of the Month for January 2016 is Monique Kagayigayi. A survivor of the Rwandan genocide whose asylum claim was granted in 2004, Monique just received her green card after more than 10 years of waiting. This is the story of a remarkable woman and the legal efforts that were required to secure her status in the United States. On April 6, 1994, Rwanda’s then-president’s plane was shot down, sparking more than three months of terror and killing throughout Rwanda that today seems unthinkable.