Biography of Cecillia Wang

Cecillia Wang is the Director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project and has nearly twenty years of experience as a civil rights and criminal defense lawyer.  She is a nationally recognized expert on issues at the intersection of immigration and criminal law, including state anti-immigrant laws, racial profiling and other unlawful police practices relating to immigration enforcement.  Her notable cases include:

  • A trial victory in a class action lawsuit against a policy and practice of racial profiling and illegal detentions by the Maricopa County (Arizona ) Sheriff’s Office;
  • A victory before an en banc panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in a class action challenge to an Arizona state constitutional amendment categorically prohibiting bail to suspected undocumented immigrants;
  • A successful challenge to Alabama’s notorious HB 56 anti-immigrant law in federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit;
  • Coordinated litigation in multiple federal courts to challenge systemic and years-long delays for immigrants seeking to become U.S. citizens.

Cecillia has taught a course on Immigration Law and the Constitutional Rights of Non-Citizens as a Lecturer in Law at Stanford Law School.

Cecillia has received numerous accolades for her work on behalf of immigrant communities including the Carol Weiss King Award from the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers’ Guild, the Cruz Reynoso–Ralph Abascal–Don Quixote Award from California Rural Legal Assistance, the Eric Quezada Courage Award from Dolores Street Legal Services, Vanderbilt Law School’s Social Justice Fellowship and the Asian American Bar Association’s Joe Morozumi Award for Exceptional Legal Advocacy.  She has been an invited speaker on civil rights and immigration at Yale, Stanford, U.C. Berkeley, Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, Lewis & Clark, and Vanderbilt law schools and has trained attorneys and advocates on civil rights, immigration and litigation practice topics. She is a frequent commentator on topics relating to immigrants’ rights through media outlets including National Public Radio, the New York Times, the Arizona Republic, and Associated Press.

Cecillia began her career at the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project as a fellow in 1997-98.  Prior to rejoining the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project in 2004, Cecillia was a criminal defense attorney.  From 1998-2002, she served as a trial attorney with the federal public defender’s office for the Southern District of New York and tried cases ranging from securities fraud to extortion and firearms offenses.  From 2003-05, while working at the San Francisco law firm of Keker & Van Nest, LLP, Cecillia was appointed to the federal Criminal Justice Act indigent defense panel for the Northern District of California and again represented clients in federal criminal cases. Cecillia is a 1995 graduate of the Yale Law School, where she was an Articles Editor for The Yale Law Journal and represented clients through the Immigration Clinic and Lowenstein Human Rights Clinic. She clerked for Judge William Norris of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and Justice Harry Blackmun of the Supreme Court of the United States.  Cecillia was an undergraduate at the University of California at Berkeley, where she graduated with highest honors in English and was valedictorian in both her major areas of study, English and Integrative Biology.

Cecillia currently serves on the board of trustees of Asian Americans for Civil Rights and Equality (AACRE), a network of organizations dedicated to bringing about positive community change. She is a former board member of the Asian Law Caucus and the ACLU of Northern California.

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