ACLU Lawyer Awarded MacArthur Foundation ‘Genius’ Grant For Groundbreaking Immigrants’ Rights Work

For Immediate Release

ACLU Lawyer Awarded MacArthur Foundation ‘Genius’ Grant For Groundbreaking Immigrants’ Rights Work

NEW YORK - American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Ahilan Arulanantham is the recipient of a prestigious 2016 MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant for his legal and advocacy efforts to protect immigrants’ rights. The prizes are awarded annually by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to individuals who demonstrate exceptional creativity and potential for future contributions to their fields.

Arulanantham is a senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project and advocacy and legal director at the ACLU of Southern California. He is a renowned human rights lawyer who is working to secure the right to counsel for children facing deportation proceedings and is the lead attorney on a U.S. Supreme Court case being argued this term on whether detained immigrants have a right to bond hearings.

“We are enormously proud of Ahilan for the groundbreaking work he has done fighting on behalf of immigrants’ rights in this country. His work has resulted in thousands of people in immigration detention being given the right to challenge their detention and be reunited with their families. He has shone a spotlight on a broken system and worked tirelessly to fix it through innovative advocacy and litigation. We are delighted that the MacArthur Foundation has recognized his work,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero.

During his ACLU tenure, Arulanantham has successfully litigated a series of landmark cases expanding immigrant detainees’ access to legal representation and limiting the government’s power to detain them indefinitely. Those cases include Rodriguez v. Robbins requiring bond hearings for immigrants; Franco-Gonzalez v. Holder, the first case to establish a right to appointed legal representation for any group of immigrants facing deportation; and Nadarajah v. Gonzales, the first Ninth Circuit case establishing limits on the government’s power to detain immigrants as a national security threat.

“What we are trying to do is harmonize immigration law with our constitutional law and basic human rights principles. The protections that we afford to immigrants facing deportation are stuck in the 19th century,” said Arulanantham.

More information about Arulanantham’s immigrants’ rights work (including a video) is at:

This statement is at:


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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