Lenni Benson

Professor of Law
Director, Safe Passage Project

Lenni Benson

Curriculum Vitae

Professor Benson specializes in immigration law and political asylum and is nationally recognized in the field. In 2012 -2014, she was selected to chair the Immigration and Nationality Law Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. From March of 2011 to June of 2012 she served as an outside researcher/ consultant for the Administrative Conference of the United States where she produced a report detailing many ways to improve immigration removal adjudication. The full report written with Russell Wheeler of the Brookings Institution, and the recommendations adopted by the plenary conference can be found here.

In 2008 she was honored with other members of the NYLS Safe Passage Project and received the State Bar President’s Award for Pro Bono Law School Project. The Safe Passage Project created a clearing house and mentoring center for pro bono immigration work focused on the representation of unaccompanied minors.  In the fall of 2012, Professor Benson will be teaching a special project based learning course and togehter with several volunteer attorneys and legal fellows will be conducting screenings at the New York Immigration Court covering a portion of the juvenile docket.  Based on screening interviews, the Safe Passage Project attorneys and students then recruit and support representation of these children by probono counsel.

In 1999, the American Immigration Lawyers Association named Professor Benson the outstanding professor in immigration law based on her contributions to the professional and scholarly development of the field and her role as a mentor of students and young attorneys.  A professor in the field since the later 1980′s, hundreds of her former students practice in immigration law or related pro bono areas. Many of those former students now mentor and employ her current students.

She has written several articles critically examining recent attempts to curtail immigrant rights. In 2011 she published an article examining one federal judge’s decisions and the desire to preserve due process in immigration cases. The Search for Fair Agency Process: “The Immigration Opinions of Judge Michael Daly Hawkins 1994 to 2010″ ARIZONA STATE LAW JOURNAL (April 2011).

In 2010 she was the opening speaker at a day long symposium exploring detention in immigration law.  Her article, “Old as the Hills: Detention and Immigration”, 5 INTERCULTURAL HUMAN RIGHTS LAW REVIEW 11(2010) describes several periods in U.S. history when noncitizens were detained and human rights fundamentally diminished. She was a leader in challenging Congressional attempts to curtail federal court judicial review of immigrationdecisions and has authored or coauthored numerous briefs of amici curiae on this topic. One of her recent pieces examining the crisis in the courts was published as “You Can’t Get There From Here: Managing Judicial Review of Immigration Cases,” 2007 Universityof Chicago Legal Forum 405 (2007).

Her work in this area continues as Congress most recently restricted immigrants’ ability to use the writ of habeas corpus. She organized a Law Review symposium titled “Seeking Review: Immigration and Federal Court Jurisdiction,” held in the fall of 2005 at New York Law School.

Professor Benson has also written several articles about problems in the legal immigration system.

Her article, “Breaking Bureaucratic Borders: A Necessary Step Toward Immigration Law Reform” (Administrative Law Review), examines the problems with the administrative structure of the agencies involved in immigration issues. It won New York Law School’s 2002 Otto L. Walter Faculty Writing Award.

Her article “Invisible Workers” (North Carolina University Law School Journal of International Law and Commercial Regulation(May 2002)) discusses the problem of underenforced labor law and the problems of measuring undocumented migration. She has also written about the fallacy of using a national labor market test in immigration policy in “The Myth of Alien Labor Certification,” a chapter in Cross Border Human Resources, Labor and Employment Issues, 54th Annual Conference on Labor, New York University School of Law’s Center on Labor and Employment Law (2005).

Professor Benson’s article “Separate, Unequal and Alien: Comments on the Limits of Brown,” (49 New York Law School Law Review 727 (2005)) concerns the deportation of Robert Galvan, a labor and community leader in California who was ordered deported a few weeks after the landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education. She questions the Supreme Court’s reluctance to protect long term resident aliens from governmental prejudice and discrimination.

Professor Benson is a recognized expert and frequent lecturer on business immigration topics, having gained practical experience as a partner in the international law firm Bryan Cave LLP, where her twelve years of practice focused on immigration. She is an active participant in immigrant rights projects coordinated by the National Lawyers Guild and the American Civil Liberties Union, and she serves on the board of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law Foundation now known as the American Immigration Council. For two years she was the Chair of the Immigration Committee of the Administrative Law Section of the American Bar Association. She is a fellow of the American Bar Foundation.  In 2011 she was the chair of the Immigration Section of the American Association of Law Schools and planned the biennial immigration law teachers workshop attended by more than 120 scholars and professors in the field.

She says her continued contact with immigration and political asylum cases, through pro bono work and active participation in the bar associations, allows her to incorporate current case law into her classroom teaching. “In New York, thirty-six percent of the population is foreign born. Immigration law has an impact on almost every aspect of the legal issues touching people’s lives. My students bring real life immigration issues into the classroom every day. It is a dynamic environment for active learning,” Professor Benson says.

She is currently working on two immigration law books with Lindsay Curcio, Veronica Jeffers and Stephen Yale-Loehr, all three are immigration attorneys and adjunct professors. These books will be published by LexisNexis in the casebook and study aid series.

From 2007 to 2009, she served as Associate Dean for Professional Development, overseeing the offices of Student Life, Career Services, and Public Interest and Community Service. A champion of students and alumni, she focused on helping students enhance their professional prospects through mentoring, networking, and skills development.

Prior to that service, she was a leader of New York Law School’s Justice Action Center, where she pulled a diverse group of activist faculty together to offer students the opportunity to get directly involved in public interest and advocacy work. She helped to create the Safe Passage Project that brings attorneys and students together to represent minor children in immigration matters. The Justice Action Center does not focus on only one aspect of individual rights.

Professor Benson lives in New York with her husband John Wellington and their two children, Max and Lily.


“The Myth of Alien Labor Certification.” Cross-Border Human Resources, Labor and Employment Issues (Andrew P. Morris & Samuel Estreicher eds.). 2005.

“Unresolved Issues and Unintended Consequences of IRIRA of 1996: Effects Upon Immigrants’ Rights.” Chapter 3 in XXI In Defense of the Alien (L.F. Tomasi, ed.). Center for Migration Studies, 1999.

“Judicial Review After the 1996 Legislation.” Chapter 15 in 30th Annual Immigration and Naturalization Institute, at 405–412. Practising Law Institute, 1997.

“Immigration Employer Sanctions and Antidiscrimination Provisions.” Article 8.4 in Arizona Employment Law Handbook, at 8.4-1 – 8.4-17 (T.M. Rogers, ed.). State Bar of Arizona, 1995.

“The ‘New World’ of Judicial Review of Removal Orders.” in 1997–1998 Immigration and Nationality Law Handbook, Volume II, at 32–59 (R.P. Murphy, ed.). American Immigration Lawyers Association, 1997.

“Fundamentals of Judicial Review of Orders of Deportation and Exclusion.” in 1996–1997 Immigration and Nationality Law Handbook, Volume I, at 484–496 (R.P. Murphy, ed.). American Immigration Lawyers Association, 1996.

“Preparation of a Successful Claim for Political Asylum or Withholding Deportation.” Chapter 1 in 29th Annual Immigration and Naturalization Institute, at 7–18. Practising Law Institute, 1996.

“Surviving to Fight Another Day: Preserving Issues for Appeal.” In 1995–1996 Immigration and Nationality Law Handbook, Volume II, at 353–366 (R.P. Murphy, ed.). American Immigration Lawyers Association, 1995.

“Exclusion Alert: Your Client May be a Smuggler.” In 1994–1995 Immigration and Nationality Law Handbook, Volume II, at 456–462 (R.P. Murphy, ed.). American Immigration Lawyers Association, 1994.

“The Long Last Step: A Discussion of Adjustment of Status and Immigrant Visa Processing.” InWorkshops for Legal Assistants, 1994: Basic Immigration Procedures, at 427–444. Practising Law Institute, 1994.

“Employment-Based Immigration: The First Three Preferences.” In Immigration and Nationality Law Handbook 1991–92, Regulatory Overview, at 140–155 (R.P. Murphy, ed.). American Immigration Lawyers Association, 1991 (with N.B. Elkind). Reprinted in The Immigration Act of 1990 Handbook: The Complete Practice Guide to the 1990 Act. 2nd ed. (H. Sklar & S.I. Folinsky, eds.). Clark, Boardman, Callaghan, 1992.

“Employer Sanctions and Anti-Discrimination Provisions.” In The Immigration Act of 1990 Handbook: The Complete Practice Guide to the 1990 Act. 2nd ed., (H. Sklar & S.I. Folinsky, eds.). Clark, Boardman, Callaghan, 1992; and 1st ed., H. Sklar, ed., 1991.

“Life After Mergers and Acquisitions: The Immigration Impact on U.S. Employers and Alien Workers.” In 1990–1991 Immigration and Nationality Law Handbook (R.P. Murphy, ed.). 1990. Reprinted in 2International Quarterly 22 (1990) (with A. Paparelli).

“The Seasonal Agricultural Workers and Replenishment Workers.” In Immigration and Nationality Law, Volume I (E.R. Rubin & R.E. Juceam, eds.). 43rd Anniversary Symposium of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, American Immigration Lawyers Association, 1989.


“The Search for Fair Agency Process: the Immigration Opinions of Judge Michael Daly Hawkins, 1994-2010,” Arizona State Law Journal (April 2011).

“As Old as the Hills: Detention and Immigration,” 5 Intercultural Human Rights Law Review 11 (2010).3

“Aliens and the State Courts: A Framework for Analysis,” Connecticut State Judiciary Annual Training (June 2009).

“Deportation Procedure and Due Process,” Encyclopedia of the Supreme Court (2009).

“You Can’t Get There From Here: Managing Judicial Review of Immigration Cases,” 2007 University of Chicago Legal Forum 405 (2007).

“Making Paper Dolls: How Restrictions on Judicial Review and the Administrative Process Increase Immigration Cases in the Federal Courts (Symposium: Seeking Review: Immigration Law and Federal Court Jurisdiction),” 51 New York Law School Law Review 37-73 (2006-2007).

“Introduction (Symposium: Seeking Review: Immigration Law and Federal Court Jurisdiction),” 51New York Law School Law Review 3-11(2006-2007).

“Separate, Unequal and Alien: Comments on the Limits of Brown (New York Law School Faculty Presentation Day II),” 49 New York Law School Law Review 727-739 (2004-2005).

“Breaking Bureaucratic Borders: A Necessary Step Toward Immigration Law Reform.” 54 Administrative Law Review 203–332 (2002).

“The Invisible Worker (Symposium on Work, Migration and Identity),” 27 North Carolina University Law School Journal of International Law and Commercial Regulation 483-496 (2002).

“The ‘New World’ of Judicial Review of Removal Orders.” 12 Georgetown Immigration Law Journal233–264 (1998).

“Back to the Future: Congress Attacks the Right to Judicial Review of Immigration Proceedings (Symposium: Lady Liberty’s Doorstep: Status and Implications of American Immigration Law).” 29Connecticut Law Review 1411–1499 (1997).

“By Hook or By Crook: Exploring the Legality of an INS Sting Operation.” 31 San Diego Law Review813–859 (1994).

“Desert Survival: The Evolving Western Irrigation District.” 1982 Arizona State Law Journal 377–417 (1982).





Co-Author, Immigration and Nationality Law: Problems and Strategies (2013).

U.S. Anti-Discrimination Laws, Contribution to the Migrant Integration Policy Index (Fall/Spring 2011-2012).

Contributing Editor, AILA’s Handbook on Waivers and Relief from Removal. (American Immigration Lawyers Association, 1999).

“Obtaining Judicial Review of Final Removal Orders: Jurisdictional Maze Must be Understood and Navigated.” 221 New York Law Journal 9, 12 (June 14, 1999).

“Immigration Reform and Judicial Review: A Constitutional Crisis.” 16 In Brief 10–11 (Fall/Winter, 1997).

Editor, AILA’s Family Immigration Law Handbook American Immigration Lawyers Association, 1994–1997.

“INS Undercover Operations.” 71 Interpreter Releases 777 (June 13, 1994).

“Immigrant Investors and The First Employment-Based Preference: Priority Workers.” In The California Annual Conference Handbook.

American Immigration Lawyers Association, 1992 (with M. Lukoschek).

Editor, Immigration Law and Defense, 2nd edClark, Boardman, Callaghan, 1989–91.

“A Practitioner’s Guide to Successful Labor Certifications.” 88 Immigration Briefings 5 (May 1988) (with R.C. Bacon).