Meet the Faculty: 2019 AILA Asylum Conference and Webcast

October 18, 2019
AILA National Office, Washington, District of Columbia, USA

Faculty in this intermediate– to advanced-level conference will discuss the administration’s recent attacks on the asylum system, offer expert guidance on new strategies to employ in immigration court, and provide other essential tools for practitioners to use as they continue to advocate for the critical protections their clients need and deserve.

Meet Some of Our Asylum Conference Speakers

Dree K. Collopy

Name: Dree K. Collopy, Conference Program Chair

  • Firm:
    • Benach Collopy LLP
  • How did you get into this field?
    • Immigration has been an issue of interest to me starting from a young age as I grew up in Iowa and observed migrant farm workers making contributions to our country. I went to Grinnell College, a liberal arts school with a strong focus on social justice, and worked with Central American refugees while studying abroad. I decided to pursue a career where I could fight human rights violations and seek justice on behalf of refugees. Asylum law is human rights law in its most practical form.
  • What excites you most about this conference:
    • Never before in our history has our asylum system been so broken; never before have asylum-seekers been so under attack. Now is the time for advocates for asylum-seekers and those who believe in due process of law to band together, stand up, and say “enough.” This conference will provide advocates with the tools they need to do just that.
  • Best quick tip:
    • When preparing an asylum application, plan ahead and invest the time necessary with your client to gain his or her trust and learn ALL of the facts before developing your legal theory. Do not try to fit your client’s story into a particular box - every case is different. Once you have developed your legal theory, build a strong evidentiary record addressing every single element of asylum eligibility in case an appeal becomes necessary.
  • Other interesting info you’d like to share:
    • I just finished writing the 8th Edition of AILA's Asylum Primer, which is now available on AILA Agora. The past four years since my previous edition of the book have yielded significant changes in U.S. asylum law and the treatment of asylum-seekers, as the Trump administration has worked methodically and relentlessly to erect unprecedented and unimaginable barriers to exclude and expel asylum-seekers from the United States. The Primer is an all-in-one reference and procedural manual that is packed full of strategies and practical guidance for creative and zealous advocacy on behalf of asylum-seekers.
Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia

Name: Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia

  • Firm:
    • Penn State Law – University Park
  • How did you get into this field?
    • I fell in love with the immigration statute during my second year of law school in 1997 and started my career with Michael Maggio the following year. Immigration is a field I found and have never left.
  • What excites you most about this conference?
    • I want to support AILA and Dree. I teach asylum law and have for the past 14 years. I have been teaching out of the Asylum Primer during those years. I also write about immigration topics and most recently about the various policies under attack during the Trump era. I hope to bring my experiences from rural Pennsylvania and research and hear from others about best ways forward in the practice of asylum law in the time of Trump.
  • Best quick tip:
    • Keep a checklist.
Bradley Jenkins

Name: Bradley Jenkins

  • Firm:
    • Catholic Legal Immigration Network
  • How did you get into this field?
    • I started off as a legal assistant at CAIR Coalition in 2007.
  • What excites you most about this conference:
    • The chance to hear what’s on the minds of the best asylum lawyers in the country!
  • Best quick tip:
    • Share post-L-E-A- asylum decisions with CLINIC!!!!
Liana E. Montecinos

Name: Liana E. Montecinos

  • Firm:
    • Benach Collopy LLP
  • How did you get into this field?
    • I crossed the border at 11. I was placed in removal proceedings as a teenager. Then, I was granted asylum and through the personal difficulties I faced, I decided to pursue law and to serve the immigrant community.
  • What excites you most about this conference?
    • Learning on how we can be better at what we do.
  • Best quick tip:
    • Go out of your way to humanize this process for immigrants instead of making it a transaction. It's already very hard on immigrants.
  • Other interesting info you’d like to share:
    • Went to Tijuana in December 2018 to help refugees and I am planning on going again in November. In case any equity warriors want to join.
Lindsay Goldford Gray

Name: Lindsay Goldford Gray

  • Firm:
    • Gray Law, PLLC
  • How did you get into this field?
    • As a former Deputy Public Defender for the Colorado State Public Defender's Office, I always wanted to learn more about immigration law. After I moved from Colorado to Missouri, I found wonderful mentors and began working on a few cases for one of them. I fell in love with immigration law and the clients we serve.
  • What excites you most about this conference:
    • I am really excited to spend time with colleagues who are zealously representing people who are constantly being oppressed by our government. I'm looking forward to learning from their experiences, as well as feeling energized by their persistence in this fight for justice.
  • Best quick tip:
    • Remember to always think about preparing a persuasive case. Take time to craft your client's story in a compelling way.
  • Other interesting info you’d like to share:
    • I am currently working on launching a nonprofit called VECINA. More details to come, but our mission statement is: "Empowering immigrant justice advocates through mentoring attorneys, educating communities, and mobilizing volunteers."
Jeffrey S. Chase

Name: Jeffrey S. Chase

  • Firm:
    • Jeffrey S. Chase, Esq. P.C.; also of counsel to DiRaimondo & Masi, P.C., and founder of the Round Table of Former Immigration Judges (the recipient of AILA’s 2019 Advocacy Award).
  • How did you get into this field?
    • It’s a long story. That is, in part, a love story.
  • What excites you most about this conference?
    • The collaboration between so many talented individuals in the field. It’s like an asylum law Broken Social Scene.
  • Best quick tip:
    • Read everything; learn from everyone. Knowledge is power.
  • Other interesting info you’d like to share:
    • I was asked to consult on a play in NYC produced by Waterwell, a civic minded production company, called The Courtroom, which uses actual court transcripts for its script. I actually performed in the play twice, alongside experienced Broadway, TV, and film actors, including a Tony Award winner. I am filming a video for another immigration-related Waterwell project, The Flores Exhibits, in which 65 actors, lawyers, and others read verbatim testimony from children and young adults detained at the border. If you have a chance to see any of Waterwell’s theater or film productions, please do; they are an amazing and creative organization with so much heart.
Desireé C. Hernández

Name: Desireé C. Hernández

  • Firm:
    • Safe Passage Project
  • How did you get into this field?
    • I wanted to be a human rights lawyer and work with international clients. I took the immigration law class in law school and it was love at first sight. Since then, I knew that immigration law was for me.
  • What excites you most about this conference:
    • Asylum case law has been changing so fast in the last few years, I am excited to learn from other attorneys’ strategies that have worked and haven't. Through group discussion we can brainstorm new strategies for the next cases.
  • Best quick tip:
    • Read your daily AILA8! It's a quick way to know about the highlights of our practice.
  • Other interesting info you’d like to share:
    • Regardless of whether you are a solo or work with others, find colleagues to brainstorm. No better way to try a new argument than with a smart colleague.