Cecillia Wang is a deputy legal director at the national ACLU and directs the Center for Democracy, which encompasses the ACLU’s work on immigrants’ rights, voting rights, national security, human rights, and speech, privacy and technology. She is a past director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project and 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. She has taught immigration law courses as an adjunct lecturer in law at Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley.
Cecillia is an experienced trial and appellate lawyer with nearly 20 years of experience in civil rights and criminal defense. 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, before the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona;
- An appellate 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;
- Successful arguments before both the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in a civil rights challenge to Alabama’s notorious HB 56 anti-immigrant law.
- A trial victory defending a federal criminal case in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on behalf of an indigent client who had been facing a 44-year mandatory minimum sentence.
Cecillia has been an ACLU lawyer since 2004, after beginning her career with the ACLU as a fellow in 1997-98 and then working as an attorney with the federal public defender’s office for the Southern District of New York and at the San Francisco law firm of Keker & Van Nest, LLP. While in private practice, Cecillia was appointed to the federal Criminal Justice Act indigent defense panel for the Northern District of California.
Cecillia has been recognized for her work on behalf of immigrant communities as a recipient of the Vanderbilt Law School Social Justice Fellowship, 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, and the Asian American Bar Association’s Joe Morozumi Award for Exceptional Legal Advocacy. She is a frequent commentator on topics relating to immigrants’ rights through media outlets including National Public Radio, the New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press, Reuters, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Arizona Republic, MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, and many others.
Cecillia is a 1995 graduate of the Yale Law School, where she was an articles editor for The Yale Law Journal. She served as a law clerk to retired Justice Harry A. Blackmun of the Supreme Court of the United States, working in the chambers of Justice Stephen G. Breyer, and to Judge William A. Norris of the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit. She graduated from U.C. Berkeley in 1992 with an A.B. in English (with highest honors) and Biology.