In this clinic, students represent clients from around the world on immigration law matters, including removal proceedings and petitions for affirmative asylum, before federal administrative tribunals. While taking responsibility for all aspects of client representation, students may also engage in community legal education and draft comments on proposed federal regulations in immigration matters. Students develop an array of skills, including interviewing and counseling clients, fact-gathering, problem-solving, cultural awareness, witness preparation, negotiation, written and oral advocacy, and policy analysis. Class discussions focus on case rounds, skills development and analysis of the immigration process.
Under the supervision of clinic director Professor Alberto Benítez and legal associate Paulina Vera, students handle a variety of immigration law matters including representing noncitizens, writing comments to proposed federal regulations, and disseminating information to the public.
Student Eligibility Requirements
To be eligible for admission, students must:
Have completed Immigration Law 6538.
Take the Clinic for six credits.
Be able to complete all clinic work in the clinic building.
Attend a two-hour clinic seminar weekly.
Be prepared to carry out duties in a professional manner.
For more information, please login to the Portal.
A complete set of application instructions is posted one month prior to the registration period for the next semester.
Factors that will render a student ineligible: Working a paid job during the semester (other than a position as the clinical program’s student director or as a research assistant for a GW Law professor).
Factors that may render a student ineligible at the Clinic Director’s discretion: Having time constraints during the semester, including but not limited to journals, unpaid internships, excessively demanding courses, extensive job interviews, and joint degree responsibilities.
- Staff and Faculty
- Awards & Honors
- Links & Resources
- Alumni Profiles
The clinic accepts removal cases scheduled in the Arlington Immigration Court and affirmative asylum cases. It does not accept cases scheduled in the Baltimore Immigration Court. The clinic only accepts clients with the following types of cases:
- Asylum cases (filed in removal proceedings or with USCIS for Asylum Office Interviews)
- Deportation or removal proceedings in the Immigration Court at Arlington, Virginia, including cases involving cancellation of removal, TPS, criminal issues
The Immigration Clinic interviews potential clients through phone intake.
For more information, potential clients should call 202.994.7463 and ask for the Immigration Clinic intake schedule.
Potential clients should be prepared to provide the following information over the phone:
- The date & place of next hearing
- The charge of removability /inadmissibility listed on their Notice to Appear
- The basic details of their case
Potential clients should be prepared to provide the following documents at an intake interview:
Q: What costs do I have to pay if I am a client of the Immigration Clinic?
A: If you become a client of the immigration clinic, you do not have to pay attorneys fees. However, you are responsible for any filing fee or other costs that may incur during the course of your case.
Q: I am not fluent in English, how can I communicate with the Immigration Clinic?
A: The Immigration Clinic provides professional translators and interpreters at no cost to the client.
Q: Will the government of my home country know I spoke to the Immigration Clinic about my potential case for asylum?
A: No. The immigration clinic, and its attorneys, are prohibited from disclosing client information to anyone.
Q: Can other members of my family, or anyone else, sit in with me in my interviews with the attorneys at the Immigration Clinic?
A: No. Due to confidentiality reasons the only people allowed during client interviews are the client, his/her attorney, and an interpreter, if needed.
Q: I have already filled out applications for my case, and do not want the Immigration Clinic to represent me. Is it possible for the Immigration Clinic to just review my applications to make sure that they are correct?
A: No. We do not provide review services.
The Immigration Clinic is highly respected by the Office of the Immigration Judge and the various other federal immigration agencies, and for good reason. Clinic students win their cases. The clinic’s record is particularly enviable because noncitizens typically come here after being rejected by other lawyers or organizations. The clinic’s specialty is the “tough” case that requires novel and creative lawyering. Clinic students have won cases involving hot-button issues like female genital mutilation, sexual orientation, torture, and HIV-status. Clinic students have also obtained freedom from detention for noncitizens. Winning for clients is the clinic’s greatest recognition.
In addition to holding a record of excellence, the clinic was honored to receive the 2000 Human Rights Award from the American Immigration Lawyers Association(AILA). GW Law was the first, and so far only, law school clinical program to receive this or any AILA award.
In 2005, the clinic was also privileged to receive the Johnson Award from the Hispanic Bar Association of the District of Columbia for exhibiting "unwavering commitment and achievement in public service and dedication to the principles of equality, cultural respect, and social justice."
Most recently, the Immigration Clinic was ranked #11 in Law Street's 2016 Top Schools for Immigration Law Programs.
The Manuel and Ana Maria Benítez Award for Clinical Excellence in Immigration Law is given to a member of the graduating Juris Doctor class who has demonstrated extraordinary ability in his or her work in the Immigration Clinic, and who possesses the personal qualities of Manuel and Ana Maria Benítez - both immigrants to the United States from Mexico - including initiative, creativity, zeal, loyalty, and integrity.
Fayruz Lama, the 2021 recipient of the Manuel and Ana Maria Benitez Award for Clinical Excellence in Immigration Law.
Previous Award Winners
- 2021: Fayruz Lama
- 2020: Halima Saidia Ismail Nur
- 2019: Allison Mateo
- 2018: Julia Navarro
- 2017: Celina Marquez
- 2016: Sameen Ahmadnia
- 2015: Paulina Vera
- 2014: Carly Sessions
- 2013: Emma Brown
- 2012: Naushad Reza
- 2011: Ioulia Maslikova
- 2010: Amisha Patel
- 2009: Alicía Gonzalez
- 2008: Shelley Sackel
- 2007: Jordi De Llano
- 2006: Betina Calderón
- 2005: Manuela Hernandez
Fayruz Lama: My name is Fayruz Lama, JD ‘21, and I participated in the Immigration Clinic in my 3L spring semester. Coming from an immigrant family, I am passionate about the work of the Immigration Clinic. I knew I wanted to be a part of it, but I did not expect it to be as great of an experience as it was. Being able to work as a student-attorney was one of the most formative experiences in law school. Under Professor Benitez and Professor Vera’s support and guidance, I learned how to be a true advocate for our immigrant community and was given the tools for success in complex immigration issues. I worked directly with clients’ asylum claims before USCIS and the immigration court, learned how to perform intakes for potential clients, and worked on a letter to Congress regarding immigration reform. Professor Benitez, Professor Vera, and the Clinic taught me practical skills for real-life immigration lawyering. I look forward to applying those skills to a successful future in immigration law.
Sam Phipps: My name is Sam Phipps (JD '21) and I participated in the Immigration Clinic during my 3L spring semester. I came to law school knowing I wanted to practice immigration law, after having a wonderful experience working with immigrant communities in Texas through an AmeriCorps program. GW Law's several other immigration-related courses thoroughly grounded me in the fundamentals of the field, and the clinic then showed me how to use that knowledge to make a real difference in a person's life. Despite the pandemic, I was able to represent a man at his naturalization interview, file petitions for immigrants located both here and abroad, and even write a letter to Congress urging reform of the immigration courts, all under the expert tutelage of Professors Benítez and Vera. Upon licensure, I will put the lawyering skills I gained through the clinic to good use by representing unaccompanied children at the southern border with ProBAR, a project of the American Bar Association.
Halima Nur: My name is Halima Nur, JD ‘20, and I participated in the immigration clinic during the fall and spring semesters of my 3L year. An immigrant myself, I participated in the clinic to better understand the humanitarian immigration process. The clinic taught me how to directly interface with clients facing difficult situations in a compassionate manner. The highlight of my time in the clinic was when I represented a family of three at the Arlington Immigration Court, ultimately winning them asylum. The clinic taught me vital lawyering skills that I could’ve never gained simply by sitting in a classroom. I currently work as an Associate Attorney at Ogletree Deakins in Austin, TX in their business immigration practice group.
Navil Infante: My name is Navil Infante, JD’ 19, and I participated in the Immigration Clinic during my 3L spring semester. As the daughter of immigrants, I have an intrinsic passion for immigration law. Working as a student attorney was the most rewarding and impactful experience of my law school journey. As a student attorney, I had the opportunity to interview prospective clients and evaluate their eligibility for immigration benefits, represent a client in immigration court, and prepare asylum applications. As an attorney, I continue to benefit from the mentorship, guidance, and learning experiences I gained during my time at the clinic. Currently, I am an associate attorney at Barst Mukamal & Kleiner LLP where I provide legal representation in different areas of immigration law including employment and family-based petitions.
Megan Elman: My name is Megan Elman, JD '19, and I participated in the Immigration Clinic during my 3L fall semester. I knew when I started at GW Law that I wanted to be a student attorney with the Immigration Clinic. With the support and supervision of Professor Benítez and Paulina, I worked on affirmative and defensive asylum applications. The highlight of my law school experience was winning asylum for my clients and their two young children! As I prepared for the Individual Calendar Hearing and to submit an affirmative asylum application, I learned about the realities of immigration law practice that you cannot learn in a classroom and I grew as a lawyer and advocate. In the fall, I will begin a fellowship with the Immigrant Justice Corps, where I will work with The Long Island Project.
Barbara Horne-Petersdorf: My name is Barbara Horne-Petersdorf, JD ’19 and I participated in the Immigration Clinic during my 3L fall semester. My interest in immigration law arose out of my experience working with asylum seekers from sub-Saharan Africa in Tel Aviv, Israel prior to law school. I came to GW Law excited about its immigration clinic and jumped at the opportunity to work under the supervision of Professor Benitez and Professor Vera. As a student attorney in the Immigration Clinic, I met regularly with clients and was afforded full responsibility over my cases. I learned from my supervisors, clients and peers how to serve the legal profession with dignity, how to listen and how to be heard. This fall, I will be clerking at the D.C. Superior Court in the Senior Judges Chambers, where I look forward to incorporating the knowledge and experience gained at the immigration clinic and seeing how immigration law intersects with other areas of the law.
Navil Infante: My name is Navil Infante, JD’ 19, and I participated in the Immigration Clinic during my 3L spring semester. As the daughter of immigrants, I have an intrinsic passion for immigration law. Working as a student attorney was the most rewarding experience I had in law school. As a student attorney, I had the opportunity to interview prospective clients and evaluate their eligibility for immigration benefits, represent a client in immigration court, and prepare an asylum application. The mentorship I received at the Immigration Clinic prepared me for the challenges faced by immigration attorneys. Most importantly, I learned to provide creative solutions for complex immigration issues and to empathize with the struggles of my clients. After graduating, I will be working as an associate attorney at Grossman Young & Hammond, where I will continue to represent individuals from immigrant communities.
- Know Your Rights Presentation
- University of Mississippi - Freshman Ventures Retreat: What Should We Remember about Legal Immigration?
Clinic in the News
- “EXPOLICÍA SALVADOREÑO CUENTA SU HISTORIA DE CÓMO ESCAPÓ DE LAS MARAS”/”El Salvadorian Ex-Police Officer Shares his Story on how he Escaped” - December 10, 2018
- "How Should Higher Education Be Responding to Refugee and Migrant Crises?" - July 27, 2018, The Chronicle of Higher Education
- "Three Years Out of the NFL, He’s about to Graduate from Law School" - May 14, 2017, The Washington Post
- "Bridging The Gap Between Us And Immigrants" - April 9, 2017, The Post Journal
- "Law School Immigration Clinic Readies for Trump Impact" - February 15, 2017, The GW Hatchet
Student-attorney Sam Phipps with a client after a naturalization interview with USCIS.
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection
- U.S. Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review
- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
- U.S. Department of State
- American Immigration Lawyers Association
- Amnesty International
- Bender - Immigration Bulletin Daily Edition
- Federation for American Immigration Reform
- Hispanic National Bar Association
- Human Rights Watch
- National Immigration Forum
- Immigration Professor Blog
- International Lawyers Network
- National Immigration Project
- The Asylumist Blog
- Immigration Courtside Blog
- University Alliance For Refugees & At-Risk Migrants Scholarships