Professor Lenni Benson was recently honored with the 2018 Candlelight Award by the James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation, a nonprofit that operates around the world and supports individuals and organizations “bettering humanity in the fields of the arts, education, and orphan care.”
Professor Benson was recognized for her work with the Safe Passage Project—a nonprofit housed within NYLS that began as a small law school clinic and has expanded into a robust organization that carries close to 700—and counting—immigration cases. She founded Safe Passage Project in 2006 and now serves as its Senior Policy Advisor.
Safe Passage Project recruits volunteer attorneys and law students to provide free legal representation to unaccompanied children and teenagers facing deportation. No free counsel is provided to people appearing in immigration court. Safe Passage’s staff, volunteer attorneys (many of whom are NYLS alumni), and NYLS students in the Immigration Law and Litigation Clinic help fill the gap. They often work in New York Immigration Court to interview young immigrants, many of whom have endured trauma, and to counsel them on legal options for remaining in the United States.
The award also recognized Professor Benson’s leadership on city, state, and national taskforces dedicated to expanding resources for unaccompanied immigrant children; her prominence as an international speaker on immigration law topics; and her active role in major organizations focused on immigration law, which include serving as Chair of the Immigration and Nationality Law Committee for the New York City Bar Association and serving on the board of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law.
Professor Benson received the award at the Luce Foundation’s March 1 gala, held at the Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia in New York City.