Marielena Hincapié served as the executive director of the Los Angeles-based National Immigration Law Center (NILC) and the NILC Immigrant Justice Fund (IJF) until November 2022. Marielena Hincapié began her tenure at NILC in 2000 as a staff attorney leading the organization’s labor and employment program. During that time, she successfully litigated law reform and impact-litigation cases dealing with the intersection of immigration laws and employment/labor laws. She then served as NILC’s director of programs from 2004 to 2008, after which she became executive director. Under her leadership, NILC and the IJF strategically combined litigation, policy, communications, narrative change, and movement-building to effect transformational change.
Marielena Hincapié is a nationally respected leader, legal and political strategist in the social justice movement, and a leading voice in the national conversation on immigration. A seasoned strategist and bridge builder, she co-led the transformational Immigrant Movement Visioning Process resulting in a long-term vision grounded in racial, economic, and gender justice and equity. She co-chaired the Biden-Sanders Unity Taskforce on Immigration, and helped lead the national conversation on the essential role immigrants play in shaping the future of the US and safeguarding our democracy. She played a key role in supporting youth leaders in the creation and successful implementation of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and co-founded the Protecting Immigrant Families (PIF) coalition to address the chilling effect the public charge rule had on children and families needing health, nutrition, housing and other safety net programs. She co-created the #ImmigrantsAreEssential cultural campaign which won the 2021 Shorty Award for Best Integrated Campaign and the 2022 Gold Anthem Award Winner for Civil and Human Rights.
Before joining NILC, Marielena Hincapié worked for the Legal Aid Society of San Francisco’s Employment Law Center, and previously served on the American Bar Association’s Commission on Immigration, and the boards of Jobs with Justice, the Center for Law & Social Policy, and as founding Board President of the Indivisible Project.
As an immigrant from Colombia, Marielena brings a bilingual and bicultural perspective to her work in the for equity, justice, and democracy. She is a sought out by the media and as a keynote speaker, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Univisión, Telemundo, CNN, MSNBC, USA Today, among others, and has given many keynotes including as commencement speaker for the Roger Williams University Law School.
Marielena Hincapié has been recognized with numerous awards, including Univision’s Corazón Award, a Stanton Fellowship from the Durfee Foundation, the Latina of Influence award from Hispanic Lifestyle, the National Public Service Award from Stanford Law School, and the Prime Mover Fellowship from the Hunt Alternatives Fund. Hincapié served as the Northeastern University School of Law Daynard Distinguished Visiting Fellow and the Practitioner-in-Residence at the Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. Marielena Hincapié immigrated as a child from Medellín, Colombia, to Central Falls, Rhode Island and grew up as the youngest in a family of 10 children. She earned her juris doctor degree from Northeastern University School of Law.
In July, 2023, she will serve as a Distinguished Visiting Immigration Scholar at Cornell Law School.