Dan Chavez was born in Columbus, Ohio where his father was receiving his Master's Degree at the University of Ohio. Not long thereafter, his father accepted a teaching post at a college in Medellín, Columbia and took his family with him. As a result, Dan learned Spanish before English but was back in the United States from kindergarten on. The Chavez family moved to the Washington, D.C. area when Dan's father was tapped by the Honorable U.S. Senator Dennis Chavez of New Mexico to serve as the Chief Clerk of the Public Works Committee on Capitol Hill. Dan graduated from Yorktown H.S. in Arlington, VA with honors. He received his bachelor's degree at the University of California at Berkeley in 1971. He received his law degree from the University of California at Davis' Martin Luther King School of Law in 1975.
In 1995-1996 Dan served as Acting Chairperson of the Northern California chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association [AILA]. The following year he was unanimously elected as the official Chairperson for 1996-1997. As it happened, that year marked the year of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), which allowed for deportation of nonviolent offenders prior to completion of their sentence; eliminated judicial review for persons convicted of most crimes that are deportable offenses; reinstated provisions resulting in incarceration of any persons, including permanent residents, convicted of most crimes that are deportable offenses without any possibility of bond; and broadened expedited and summary deportation proceedings. In effect, it marked some of the most challenging attacks on the rights of the underrepresented in this country's history. Dan worked tirelessly that year in his capacity as a member of the Board of Directors of the AILA to fashion strategies and policies in response to these monumental changes. He firmly believes immigrants make enormous contributions to our community, that they have been historically unrepresented and misunderstood by the mainstream and that they deserve and need legal representation of the highest quality. As an AILA officer Dan was often called upon to teach and mentor other attorneys regarding different facets of immigration law. He remains committed to cooperating with committed professionals to further the cause of immigration.