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.
The clinic accepts removal cases scheduled in the Sterling, Annandale and Hyattsville Immigration Courts 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 Sterling, Annandale and Hyattsville, Maryland, including cases involving cancellation of removal, TPS, criminal issues
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:
- Notice to Appear
- Notice of Hearing
- Relevant personal documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates
- Criminal documents, if relevant
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.
Our office has a minimum 24 hour cancellation policy. Please contact our office 24 business hours in advance if you need to change your appointment. Failure to comply with this policy may result in withdrawal of legal representation.
- Frequently Asked Questions for Prospective Clients
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. We accommodate all languages, including ASL.
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.
- Links & Resources
- Department of Homeland Security
- US Citizenship and Immigration Services
- Check Your Case Status
- US Customs and Border Protection
- US Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review
- US Immigration and Customs Enforcement
- ICE Detainee Locator
- US Department of State
- American Immigration Lawyers Association
- Amnesty International
- Bender - Immigration Bulletin Daily Edition
- 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
To be eligible for admission, students must:
- Have completed Immigration Law 6538.
- Students cannot take Immigration Law I and the Immigration Clinic at the same time.
- 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 log in 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.
"Thank you isn’t enough to express how grateful we are." On May 22, 2023, V-M- was granted her green card. Her applications were filed on April 18, 2022 and her interview at USCIS was waived. V-M- is the wife of our long-time client, E-K-. The Clinic started representing E-K- in 2009 and helped him obtain asylum, his green card, and then his U.S. citizenship. Once he became a U.S. citizen, he was able to petition for his wife, V-M-, with whom he has two kids, ages 2 and 4. Like E-K-, V-M- is from Cameroon. Please join me in congratulating Mir Sadra Nabavi and Trisha Kondabala, who both worked on the case.
"I hope to rebuild my life here. I can't save my country, but I can save myself and my family." On February 1, 2023 Immigration Clinic client, R-W-, was granted asylum by the Arlington Asylum Office. The interview was June 6, 2022, and we received the approval notice yesterday. R-W- was a women's rights attorney in Afghanistan. Among her duties, she trained law students to help women access justice using the legal system and was training to become a prosecutor to try cases involving violence against women. When the Taliban entered Kabul, she had to quit her job at the organization she worked at and stop her training program. Because she feared being targeted based on her advocacy and her education, R-W- fled Afghanistan on her third evacuation attempt. The stress of her situation caused her to experience depression, anxiety, and fainting spells, which all required medical attention. Now that R-W- is in the United States, she is feeling better health-wise and is researching law school programs, as she hopes to continue practicing as an attorney. The above is what R-W- wrote in her affidavit in support of her asylum application. R-W can now begin the process of bringing her husband to the USA. He remains in Afghanistan. Please join me and Professor Vera in congratulating Alex Chen and Julia Addison, who worked on the case.
On April 16, 2019, the Immigration Clinic filed a family-based immigrant petition on behalf of our client, T-M-, a U.S. citizen who was petitioning for his wife, E-H-. Prior to becoming an Immigration Clinic client, E-H- had been deported to Ethiopia on August 12, 2009, after an unsuccessful asylum claim. T-M- and their three U.S. citizen children, now ages 7,13, and 17, traveled back and forth between Ethiopia and the U.S. for years to see E-H-. E-H- had to remain outside of the U.S. that whole time due to her deportation order. On October 26, 2022, E-H- had her green card interview at the U.S. embassy. Her case was approved shortly after and she finally returned to the United States in December 2022, over thirteen years after she left. Please join me and Professor Vera in congratulating Kirsten Ryan, Samuel Phipps, Colleen Ward, Daniel Fishelman, and Cornelia Waugh, who all worked on this case.
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.
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
José Hernández: My name is José Hernández, JD ’22, and I participated in the Immigration Clinic during my last semester. I grew up in Puerto Rico and I moved from there for the first time when I started in law school. At first, I had no idea what kind of law I was interested in, but eventually I started to develop an interest in immigration law. However, it was thanks to my experience in the clinic, along with the mentoring of Prof. Benítez and Prof. Vera, that I confirmed what kind of law I wanted to pursue upon graduation. The clinic allowed me to experience first-hand what it was to be a lawyer, and by that I mean not only helping people in court but, as advocates of the law, how we can have an impact outside the court too by, for example, engaging in the process of making the law or educating others about the law. Upon licensure, I will be putting the skills I learned in the Clinic by working with the law office of José Pertierra, an immigration law firm that works with different areas of immigration law.
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.
Clinic in the News
- "St. Mary’s hosts Lawtina Network Summit to build community for Latinas in law" - August 2, 2022
- "GW Law hosts Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute's Caminos al Futuro Scholars" - July 25, 2022
- "Reconocidos profesores de derecho de EE.UU. en Argentina: constitucionalismo, migración y monopolios" - June 22, 2022
- "Ukraine Migration Maps ‘What’s Possible’ for Climate Displaced" - June 6, 2022
- "The Heat: Migration, Asylum and Deportation" - August 14, 2019
- "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
- "Testimony S3 Ep. 2: Immigration with Professor Alberto Benitez"