AILA Public Statements, Press Releases

AILA Presents Ava Benach with the 2017 Edith Lowenstein Memorial Award

6/19/17 AILA Doc. No. 17061909. LGBTQ
George Tzamaras
Belle Woods

WASHINGTON, DC - The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) will recognize Ava Benach of Washington, DC, with the 2017 Edith Lowenstein Memorial Award for excellence in advancing the practice of immigration law. She will receive the award this week during AILA's Annual Conference in New Orleans, LA.

Ms. Benach has been a mentor and colleague for many AILA members, and through her generous sharing of expertise and knowledge, has helped advance the understanding of immigration law.

For most of her legal career, Ava Benach was unknown to her colleagues in the immigration bar. As "Andres Benach," she built a career and reputation over fifteen years. In 2015, however, Ms. Benach reintroduced herself:

"For 17 years, I have had the privilege of practicing the best type of law-immigration law. I have been so lucky to get to know so many brave, hard-working, family-oriented, and generous people from all over the globe. They all shared one thing in common: a willingness to take a chance to come to the United States. to be the person they knew they were meant to be. ... It is hard to do this work and not be amazed at the determination of the human spirit to take a chance on leaving the comfort and security of the known for the uncertain future of life as an immigrant in America.

The spirit displayed by so many of my clients has been instrumental in helping me leave behind the known and comfortable. That has not involved crossing a desert full of smugglers and snakes, but rather shedding the protective armor of masculinity that I wrapped around myself. My clients, friends, and, most importantly, my family gave me the courage to admit that I was transgender and I was ready to make the journey of transitioning to a woman."

After that moment, Ms. Benach began to publicly take on more pro bono work that she had originally done quietly and began a relationship with a local LGBT organization to provide representation to transgender immigrants. Through her work, dozens of trans immigrants have received representation and a new generation of attorneys has been trained in representing LGBT immigrants. Her advocacy has taken her from the streets of Washington, DC, to the transgender detention facility in Santa Ana, CA.

In addition, she continues to manage Benach Collopy, represent clients in immigration and federal courts nationwide, serve on the amicus committee, serve as a Board Member of the Capital Area Immigrants' Rights Coalition, start a baseball team for girls, and coach at least one baseball team.


The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.