Pro-immigrant Legal & Political Strategist
Marielena Hincapié served as the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) and the NILC Immigrant Justice Fund (IJF) until November 2022. Marielena began her tenure at NILC in 2000 as a staff attorney leading its labor and employment program. She successfully litigated law reform and impact-litigation cases dealing with the intersection of immigration laws and employment/labor laws. After serving as director of programs, Marielena became NILC’s executive director. Under her leadership, NILC and the IJF strategically combined litigation, policy, communications, narrative change, and movement-building to effect transformational change.
Marielena is a nationally respected leader, legal and political strategist, and a leading voice in the national conversation on immigrants. 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 Campaign’s 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 children and families’ access to safety net programs. She co-created the #ImmigrantsAreEssential cultural campaign which won a Shorty Award and a Gold Anthem Award for Civil and Human Rights.
After graduating from Northeastern University School of Law, Marielena started her legal career with Legal Aid at Work, then known as the Legal Aid Society of San Francisco’s Employment Law Center. She 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. In March 2023, Marielena was selected as a member of the Board of Trustees for The David and Lucille Packard Foundation.
Marielena is the youngest of 10 children and immigrated as a child from Colombia to Rhode Island. She brings a bilingual and bicultural perspective to her work for equity, justice, and democracy.
In July, 2023, she will serve as a Distinguished Visiting Immigration Scholar at Cornell Law School.