On August 5, the 2016 Olympic Games will open in Rio de Janeiro. I love the Olympics because it is a time when we all set aside our day-to-day worries and differences to come together to cheer on the world’s elite athletes as they represent their home countries. But I am particularly interested in watching this year’s Olympic Games because of one specific “country.” This year, 206 countries will participate.
“We live in the age of the refugee, the age of the exile.” Ariel Dorfman (Argentine-Chilean playwright, academic and human rights activist) By Satsita Muradova If someone asked me what was the most difficult decision I have made in my lifetime, I would respond – seeking asylum in the United States. I know from personal experience that no one would leave their country of origin, their home, loved ones (often without a chance of seeing them again) and the life that they were accustomed to unless that place had become a living hell.
We are thrilled to announce Jorge Martinez and Christopher Gallo as our July 2016 Clients of the Month. Jorge is a permanent resident who just returned from Honduras where he obtained his immigrant visa after being approved for an I-601A provisional waiver for hardship to his U.S. citizen husband, Chris. Jorge returned to Honduras after being gone for more than 20 years and was able to hug his mother again and reunite with his extended family.
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.
BN was born in Manhattan, New York while her parents were serving as Diplomats in the U.S. as part of the Angolan Mission to the United Nations. As a result of her parents’ diplomatic status, BN was one of the few people born in the U.S. who do not receive birthright citizenship. Although BN was born and raised in the United States, she was also not eligible for DACA because her parent’s diplomatic status expired after DACA was offered.
Benach Collopy often turns this space over to law students and other friends to discuss their cases. Malissa Tucker and Alexandra Early are law students at the Catholic University Law School, where they are part of the immigration law clinic taught by Dree Collopy and Michelle Mendez. We met our client Muhammad shortly after the fall semester began. We were so nervous to meet this stranger who we knew desperately needed our help that all we could do was scribble down some extra notes about what we wanted to ask him and prepare steaming hot Styrofoam cups of mint tea – our way of saying “we are here to take care of you.”
Once a year immigration attorneys from all over the country march to Washington, D.C. to meet with their elected officials and to encourage them to take action toward fixing this country’s broken immigration system. The event is organized by the American Immigration Lawyers Association and is appropriately called the National Day of Action. This year, one of the issues we put on the list of things to discuss is family detention.
Artesia. Karnes. Dilley. Before the administration decided it would be a great idea to lock up Central American women and children fleeing from persecution, these towns were unknown. Artesia was the hometown of our government’s rejuvenation of family detention. The makeshift facility, warmly referred to by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) as the Artesia Family Residential Center, was the hub of so many human rights violations that it was ultimately shut down.
At a time of year when we honor togetherness and fresh starts, we are comforted to know that Benach Collopy clients, Kira and her four-year-old son Ricky, have finally been granted asylum and are reunited with their husband/father, Andre, here in the United States.* This family of faith was torn apart by targeted and systematic violence at the hands of the M-18 gang, the de facto government in Guatemala, all because they preached about peace and encouraged non-violence in their community – in the eyes of the M-18, a message of disloyalty and dissidence that needed to be eradicated.