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. While the construction crews built our new home, we have lived like queens at Metro Offices at 700 12th Street, NW. But the paint is dry and the carpets are being shampooed, so we are ready to make the move. After the move in, we will be taking the week between Christmas and New Year’s off. After the year we have had, everyone here deserves a chance to recharge in the company of family and friends this Holiday Season. We will be back, re-energized, on January 2, 2018.
2017 was a beast right out of the gate. Within days of the President’s inauguration, the first of what would be three Muslim bans came down. Immigration attorneys and others who believe in an inclusive America rushed to airports to protest the policy and welcome people to the U.S. Ava Benach and Sahar Atassi spent Saturday night at Dulles until Senator Booker arrived and coaxed an agreement from CBP to let in certain people who might have been otherwise turned around due to the ban. We cheered as courts issued injunctions and the ban was stopped. For the next 11 months, the administration would re-write its ban two more times, only to have it blocked at every turn by courts in Maryland, Hawaii, Washington state, New York and around the country. It was not until December 4, 2017, that the Supreme Court let a revised travel ban take effect. We saw the heartbreaking effects of this just this week when we met a woman whose sister, a 50 year old woman from Iran, was denied an immigrant visa that her U.S. citizen 77 year old mother petitioned for seven years ago. Yet, the fight goes on as both the 4th Circuit and 9th Circuit are poised to rule on the merits of the Muslim Ban.
Protests dominated the winter. ICE engaged in a number of splashy raids on communities to show that the “gloves are off.” With press releases trumpeting the criminals arrested, it turns out that ICE exaggerated the criminal nature of those arrested. Later analyses show that ICE has not removed more criminals than previous administration, but has deported more overstays and those who entered without inspection. It seems every week brought a story of a parent of several U.S. citizens with longstanding ties to the community who was fighting to remain in the U.S. Videos of tearful goodbyes at airports were prominent in social media. People took sanctuary in churches. Newspapers reported on U.S. citizens who were stunned when DHS came after a beloved member of the community. Many families learned the painful lesson that the government’s definition of
bad hombres included people they care about. DACA holders were arrested.
DHS began an assault on Temporary Protected Status, cancelling TPS for Haitians and Nicaraguans and setting the stage for cancelling TPS for Hondurans and Salvadorans. But the big attack came in September, when Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions announced that DACA will end, plunging Dreamers into a state of limbo. 122 DACA holders lose their work authorization every day, depriving the country of doctors, teachers, members of the military and others. Of course, Dreamers are going to be Dreamers and are fighting it every step of the way. Sit-ins, protests and noisy demonstrations have gripped the Capitol as Dreamers demand a legislative solution to their predicament.
Through all this, we have carried on and been invigorated and inspired by the courage and determination of airport lawyers, radical priests, immigrants facing removal, people fleeing persecution, Dreamers facing arrest. We continued our work to provide high-quality legal representation to immigrants. We started the year by welcoming Danieca back home and end it with winning asylum for a trans woman from El Salvador who suffered grotesque violence in El Salvador.
Along the way, we have had two baby girls! Maddox and Emery joined the Benach Collopy family. Ava won a few awards. We brought in a new attorney, Sarah Pitney. We also got a new look and wrote last month “When we move into our new offices in Tenleytown and embark on the next chapter of Benach Collopy, our brand will reflect who we are – a forward-thinking organization that is strategic, creative, and detail-oriented. We’re breaking barriers (and overcoming walls) and fighting for what’s right.”
Tomorrow, December 21, the shortest and darkest day of the year, we will gather for a holiday lunch at Zaytinya, a restaurant operated by one of the heroes of 2017, Jose Andres. We will reflect on the pain, resilience and grace we witnessed in 2017 and remind ourselves that every day after December 21, it gets brighter and brighter.
Happy Holidays from Benach Collopy!