Ava Benach is a founding partner of Benach Collopy. For nearly twenty years, Ava has navigated clients through the maze of immigration law. Ava has concentrated her practice on representing clients in removal proceedings and in litigation matters before the federal courts. She also has extensive experience advising clients on the immigration consequences of criminal convictions and complex citizenship and residence questions. Ava was identified as being a “go-to attorney when it comes to representing individuals in complex government cases” and at the “forefront of an emerging generation of litigators” in the immigration field by Chambers International. In June 2017, Ava was awarded the Edith B. Lowenstein Award for Excellence in Advancing the Practice of Immigration Law by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).
Ava has represented clients in immigration courts across the country, addressing cutting edge issues in asylum, the immigration consequences of criminal convictions, jurisdiction and due process, and eligibility for relief, such as 212(h) waivers of inadmissibility and cancellation of removal. Ava also brings actions in federal court to challenge unreasonable or delayed government decision-making and to ensure that her clients rights are protected.
Ava currently serves on the Amicus Committee of the AILA helping to set nationwide litigation strategy for the organization. In this capacity, Ava took a lead role in challenging state immigration laws in South Carolina and Alabama. Ava has also served on the national AILA liaison committee to Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), representing the concerns of immigration lawyers among top ICE officials. In the organization’s local chapter, Ava served as Chair of the Litigation Committee and as Pro Bono Coordinator.
In addition, Ava is active in local immigration charities and organizations. Ava has taken a lead role in representing transgender asylum seekers before the asylum office and the immigration courts. She has pioneered an innovative collaboration with Whitman Walker Health to provide quality representation to transgender immigrants while training the next generation of lawyers in representing LGBT immigrants. In May 2017, Whitman Walker Health honored Ava with the Fenner Award for Community Service for her work representing Whitman Walker clients. She is a member of the Board of Directors for the Capital Area Immigrant Rights Coalition, where she works to protect the rights of immigrants in the detention system. In the Fall of 2011, Ava was a Professorial Lecturer in Law at George Washington University Law School, where she co-taught the immigration clinic.
Prior to forming Benach Collopy, Ava was a partner in the nationwide immigration practice at Duane Morris. She joined Duane Morris after leading the litigation practice at Maggio & Kattar for several years.
Ava is a 1998 cum laude graduate of George Washington University Law School and a graduate of Boston College. She is fluent in Spanish.
- American Immigration Lawyers Association
Amicus Committee, 2011-2017
Immigration & Customs Enforcement Liaison Committee 2010-2011
- American Immigration Lawyers Association D.C. Chapter
Co-Chair, Litigation Committee, 2007-2008
Former Vice Chair, Secretary, and Treasurer of D.C. Chapter
- Professorial Lecturer in Law, The George Washington University Law School
- Board of Directors, Capitol Area Immigrants Rights Coalition
- Member, American Bar Association
- Member, National Immigration Project
- Member, National Hispanic Bar Association
- Member, Immigrant’s List
- District of Columbia Court of Appeals
- U.S. Supreme Court
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second, Third and Fourth Circuits
- U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York
- U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
- U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, pro hac vice
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, pro hac vice
- George Washington University Law School, J.D., cum laude, 1998
- Boston College, B.A., 1994
Honors and Awards
- Edith B. Lowenstein Award for Excellence in Advancing the Practice of Immigration Law, American Immigration Lawyers, June 2017.
- Fenner Award for Community Service, Whitman Walker Health, May 2017.
- Named to Best Lawyers in America, 2003-2018
- Named to Chambers USA, America’s Leading Lawyers for Business, 2006-2018
- Named one of Washington’s top immigration lawyers by Washingtonian magazine, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2016
- Author, “A Solid Game Plan for Handling Removal Cases,” AILA Voice, December 2014.
- Co-author, “U.S. Supreme Court’s Sixth-Amendment Ruling Requires Defense Counsel to Inform Immigrant When Plea May Lead to Deportation,” Duane Morris Alert, April 7, 2010
- Quoted in “Young undocumented migrant can stay in U.S. another year,” Miami Herald, July 2, 2009
- “Oops I Forgot to Tell You,” Immigration & Nationality Law Handbook, 2007-2008 ed.
- Co-Author, “Keeping Battered Aliens in the U.S.,” 77 Interpreter Releases 225, Feb. 28, 2000
- “Effective Advocacy Through Private Bills,” Third Annual New York Chapter Immigration Law Symposium Handbook, December 2000
Selected Speaking Engagements
- Panelist, “Federal Court Update,”American Immigration Lawyers Association Ohio Chapter, October 9, 2015, Columbus, OH.
- Panelist, “Preparing the Record for Appeal from Day One of Your Representation,” American Immigration Lawyers Association, Annual Conference, June 19, 2015, National Harbor, MD.
- Panelist, “Federal Litigation,” American Immigration Lawyers Association Iowa-Nebraska Chapter, September 12, 2014, Omaha, NE.
- Panelist, “Pre-Litigation Prep/Bond/Master,” American Immigration Lawyers Association Fall Litigation Conference, September 19, 2014, Seattle, WA.
- Panelist, “Litigating with the Stars,” American Immigration Lawyers Association Annual Conference, June 21, 2014, Boston, MA.
- Panelist, “Challenging Benefits Adjudication in Federal Court,” American Immigration Lawyers Association Federal Court Litigation Conference, February 28, 2014, Las Vegas, NV
- Panelist, “Motions in Immigration Court,” American Immigration Lawyers Association Annual Conference, June 28, 2013, San Francisco, CA.
- Panelist, “Prosecutorial Discretion,” National Immigration Project, May 2, 2013, Boston, MA.
- Panelist, “Provisional Waivers,” National Immigration Project, May 2, 2013, Boston MA.
- Panelist, “The World After Padilla v. Kentucky, The Criminal Attorney’s Duty to Advise Clients of the Immigration Consequences of their Convictions,” American Bar Association Section of Litigation Annual Conference, April 24-26, 2013, Chicago, IL.
- Panelist, “Evidentiary Issues in Removal Proceedings,” American Immigration Council Litigation Institute, March 8-9, Washington, DC.
- Panelist, “Developments in Criminal/Immigration Law,” American Immigration Lawyers Association Annual Conference, June 13-16, 2012, Nashville, TN.
- Discussion Leader, “Dealing with Difficult Judges, Difficult Examiners,” American Immigration Lawyers Association, Teleconference, March 15, 2012.
- Panelist, “Developments in Habeas Corpus Challenges to Detention,” American Immigration Lawyers Association,Federal Court Immigration Litigation CLE Practicum, Las Vegas, Nevada, March 5-6, 2012.
- Panelist, “An Introduction to Federal Court Litigation: Challenging Denied Applications and Petitions,” American Immigration Lawyers Association Annual Open House, February 17, 2012.
- Panelist, “Employment Based Immigration in Federal Court,” American Immigration Lawyers Association fall conference, Denver, Colorado, September 16, 2011.
- Discussion Leader, “Analyzing the Criminal Consequences of Criminal Convictions,” American Immigration Lawyers Association Annual Conference, San Diego, California, June 15-June 19, 2011.
- Discussion Leader, “Surviving Dispositive Motions,” American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Federal Court Immigration Litigation CLE Practicum, Atlanta, March 3-4, 2011.
- Speaker, “Duane Morris’ Developments in Workplace Law & Practice 2011,” Washington, D.C., May 14, 2011.
- Discussion Leader, “Dealing with Challenging Immigration Courts and Trial Attorneys,” American Immigration Lawyers Association annual conference, National Harbor, Maryland, June 30-July 3, 2010
- Speaker, “Duane Morris’ Developments in Workplace Law & Practice 2010,” Washington, D.C., May 11, 2010
- Faculty, American Immigration Law Foundation 2009 Litigation Institute, Dallas, Texas, October 9-11, 2009
- Speaker, American Immigration Lawyers Association Fall CLE, Pittsburgh, October 2, 2009
- “Cutting-Edge Issues in Removal Defense,” American Immigration Lawyers Association Annual Conference, Las Vegas, Nevada, June 3-6, 2009
- “Removal For Experts,” ILW Teleseminar, March 19, 2009
- “DHS Violated the Law and My Client Is in Trouble? Can I Sue Someone and Who? Advanced Issues in Federal Court Litigation,” AILA Webinar, November 2008
- “How to Pass Go: Procedural Issues on Admission,” AILA National Conference, Vancouver, Canada, June 2008
- “Fundamentals of Immigration Practice,” District of Columbia Bar Continuing Legal Education, May 2008, 2007, 2005, 2004 and 2003
- “Fundamentals of Removal Proceedings,” ALI-ABA, Washington, D.C., May 2008
- “Oops, I Forgot to Tell You: Non-Business Issues That Can Affect Your Business Immigration Client,” AILA National Conference, Orlando, Florida, June 2007
- “Adjustment of Status in Removal Proceedings,” AILA Telephonic Seminar, October 2007
- “Hot Topics: INA §212(c) and Cancellation of Removal,” National Immigration Project, Spring CLE, Boston, Massachusetts, April 2007
- “Fundamentals-Preparing the Marriage Based Case and Mock Interview,” AILA National Conference, San Antonio, Texas, June 2006
- “Fundamentals of Asylum Law,” National Center for Refugee Children, Washington, D.C., November 2005
- “Immigration Consequences of Crime,” 38th Annual Immigration & Naturalization Institute, Practising Law Institute, New York, New York, October 2005
- “After the Grant: Issues After a Client Is Granted Relief,” AILA Telephonic Seminar, May 2005
- Obtained withholding of removal for Honduran citizen convicted of a sex offense.
- Won asylum for five unaccompanied minors fleeing El Salvador.
- Obtained provisional waiver and immigrant visa in Manila for child aging out.
- Obtained reversal of citizenship denial where client had a single DUI in the 5 years prior to applying for citizenship.
- Obtained provisional waiver and immigrant visa in Guatemala City for spouse of U.S. citizen.
- Obtained provisional waiver and immigrant visa in Tegucigalpa for spouse of U.S. citizen.
- Obtained cancellation of removal for Rwandan and Congolese couple in Immigration Court in Charlotte, NC
- Obtained cancellation of removal for Mexican couple in Immigration Court in Arlington, VA.
- Obtained 212(h) waiver and adjustment of status for Canadian citizen convicted of multiple aggravated felonies.
- Obtained protection under the Convention Against Torture for Vietnamese man who immigrated 15 years ago.
- Obtained asylum for transgender woman from El Salvador.
- Obtained J-1 hardship waiver for gay spouse of U.S. citizen.
- Obtained visa in Brazil for client using I-601A provisional waiver to waive unlawful presence.
- Obtained citizenship for client with multiple speeding violations.
- Obtained cancellation of removal for client who arrived in U.S. as a child and established hardship on her U.S. citizen parents.
- Obtained asylum for lesbian from South Africa despite one year rule issue.
- Defeated charges of fraud by Korean woman in removal proceedings.
- Obtained adjustment of status and waiver of inadmissibility due to misrepresentation for client whose went through three appeals and twelve years of removal proceedings.
- Obtained adjustment of status and 212(h) waiver of inadmissibility for permanent resident convicted of aggravated felony using legal theory from Hanif v. Attorney General (3d Cir. 2012), twelve witnesses, and a 747 page filing detailing extreme hardship and arguments in favor of the exercise of discretion.
- Obtained asylum for Russian business executive subjected to political charges by Russian government for opposition to President Putin.
- Obtained waiver of inadmissibility from Immigration Judge in Arlington, VA for permanent resident with embezzlement conviction.
- Obtained protection under the Convention Against Torture from Immigration Judge in Arlington, VA for gay man from Uganda who had married a woman in the U.S.
- Convinced immigration judge in Cleveland, OH to terminate removal proceedings against permanent resident who erroneously registered to vote in the U.S.
- Obtained waivers of inadmissibility from U.S. Embassies in Indonesia, Bolivia, Lebanon, Philippines, Peru, Argentina, Honduras, Mexico, Egypt.
- Convinced immigration judge in York, PA that client’s conviction was not an aggravated felony as an offense involving fraud or deceit
- Convinced immigration judge in Dallas, TX that client was not subject to mandatory detention based upon his conviction
- Obtained withholding of removal from Immigration Judge in Seattle, WA for young woman from Colombia whose family was threatened due to pro-Union activities
- Reopened removal proceedings before Board of Immigration Appeals for refugee from Rwanda so that she could present asylum claim to Immigration Judge. Judge in Baltimore, MD granted asylum.
- Obtained asylum for teenager fleeing gang violence in El Salvador before immigration judge in Baltimore.
- Obtained cancellation of removal from Immigration Judge in Arlington, VA for undocumented Mexican woman based upon the exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to her U.S. citizen child.
- Obtained cancellation of removal from Immigration Judge in Baltimore, MD for single mother from Venezuela based upon the exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to her two U.S. citizen daughters.
- Obtained waiver of removability due to fraud from Immigration Judge in New York, NY for Guyanese immigrant who entered on false visa.
- Obtained asylum for male-to-female transsexual from El Salvador.
- Demonstrated that Iranian client charged with removal on criminal grounds was United States citizen.
- Obtained residence for S visa holder through marriage to a U.S. citizen.
- Obtained residence for U.K. National who had no formal proof of lawful admission
- Obtained asylum for numerous former Colombian prosecutors due to death threats for their efforts to prosecute paramilitary and guerilla leaders.
- Obtained asylum for gay activist from Venezuela.
- Obtained cancellation of removal for a citizen of China who was placed in removal proceedings after having lived in the United States without lawful status for more than a decade by proving that Client’s presence in the U.S. was critical to the wellbeing of his U.S. citizen wife, plagued with depression and other severe medical problems, and their two young children.
- Obtained asylum for young man from Russia who refused to participate in genocidal acts in Chechnya.
- Reopened removal proceedings before the Board of Immigration Appeals based upon ineffective assistance of counsel so client could apply for cancellation of removal. Obtained asylum for client’s husband based upon risk of FGM to U.S. citizen daughter. Client obtained derivative asylum.
- Obtained asylum from Immigration Judge in Arlington, VA for feminist activist from Iran.
- Obtained waiver of inadmissibility from Immigration Judge in Hartford, CT for individual convicted of aggravated felony.
- Persuaded Department of Justice to agree to remand to Immigration Judge so that client could apply for asylum before Judge in Bloomington, MN. Judge granted asylum to Ethiopian client.
- Obtained residence for man charged with support of terrorism after 9/11 from Immigration Judge in Oakdale, LA.
- Reopened proceedings before Board of Immigration Appeals after two immigration judges in Atlanta, GA denied reopening. The BIA insisted that the case go back to a different judge in Atlanta.
- Convinced Department of Homeland Security to join in reopening for Sierra Leonean client who was ordered deported in absentia so he could apply for residence before Immigration Judge.
- Convinced Department of Homeland Security to join reopening proceedings to allow Ethiopian teenager to adjust status to permanent residence.
- Benach Collopy
Partner, 2012 – present
- Duane Morris LLP
- Maggio & Kattar
Senior Attorney and Shareholder, 2001-2008
- Law Office of Cyrus D. Mehta
- U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Deputy Attorney General
Law Clerk, 1998