Marielena Hincapie




Immigration activist

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Marielena Hincapie is a left-of-center immigration activist and the longtime executive director of the National Immigration Law Center (NILC). She has advocated for lax immigration enforcement, criticizing even Obama administration immigration policy as too harsh, and has called former President Donald Trump a racist, a white supremacist, and a threat to democracy.


Hincapie immigrated from Colombia in the 1970s with her parents and nine siblings to Rhode Island, where her father had secured work at a factory. She later attended Northeastern University where she earned a degree in criminal justice. She worked for a lawyer focused on anti-discrimination immigration law before later returning to Northeastern to earn a law degree. 1

After receiving her law degree, Hincapie worked in San Francisco at the American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) Immigrant Workers’ Rights Project. In 2000, she joined the National Immigration Law Center as a staff attorney leading the labor and employment program. In 2004, she became the director of the NILC’s programs, and in 2008 became the organization’s executive director. 2 3 In September 2021, Hincapie announced she will be leaving NILC in June 2022. 4

National Immigration Law Center

Hincapie has led the National Immigration Law Center since 2008. She has undertaken major changes to the organization, including founding NILC’s affiliated 501(c)(4) lobbying organization, the Immigrant Justice Fund, in 2013. She works as the executive director of both organizations. 5

During her tenure, NILC criticized the Obama administration’s immigration policy for not going far enough in relaxing federal immigration law, though it did support the administration’s Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program and its later attempted expansion in the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program. 6 7

NILC criticized the Obama administration for its family separation policy, which Hincapie called a “PR stunt.” 8 Hincapie was also very critical of the Obama administration’s decision to deport Haitians seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border, calling the policy “unconscionable.” 9

Under Hincapie’s leadership, the NILC was harshly critical of the Trump administration and its immigration policy. Hincapie called Trump a racist and stated that his administration had a “white supremacist agenda.” 10

Immigrant Justice Fund

Under Hincapie’s leadership, the Immigrant Justice Fund was active in the 2020 presidential election. In August 2020, the fund, along with over 170 other organizations, signed onto the 2021 Immigration Action Plan advocating for changes in the federal immigration system. Some changes included “decriminalizing immigration,” ending the use of immigration jails, and “reimagining” federal immigration courts. 11

Beginning in September 2020, the fund began releasing digital ads targeting 130,000 voters in Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Arizona. The ads attacked the Trump administration’s immigration rhetoric and record and highlighted the role that immigrants play in the U.S. economy, especially in the healthcare industry. 12

After the 2020 presidential election, the fund claimed that its activity had helped to defeat then-President Trump and Hincapie stated that Trump was “the most anti-immigrant president in generations” and that his defeat had “saved American democracy.” 13  

Political Contributions

Hincapiehas contributed about $1,500 since 2016 to left-of-center candidates and PACs, including ActBlue, the prominent Democratic passthrough PAC; the Biden 2020 campaign; the 2016 campaign of Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA); and the 2020 senate campaign of Jaime Harrison in South Carolina. 14


  1. Petak, Tessa. “Marielena Hincapié Won’t Stop Fighting for Immigrants’ Rights.” InStyle. October 15, 2020. October 18, 2020. Accessed May 7, 2022.
  2. “Leadership.” NILC Immigrant Justice Fund. Accessed May 7, 2022.
  3. Petak, Tessa. “Marielena Hincapié Won’t Stop Fighting for Immigrants’ Rights.” InStyle. October 15, 2020. October 18, 2020. Accessed May 7, 2022.
  4. [1] Gastelum, Juan. “Marielena Hincapié to Leave National Immigration Law Center in June 2022.” National Immigration Law Center. September 14, 2021.
  5. “About.” NILC Immigrant Justice Fund. Accessed May 9, 2022.
  6. “Deferred Action for DREAMers.” National Immigration Law Center. July 15, 2012. Accessed August 01, 2019.
  7. “Statement on Administrative Relief.” National Immigration Law Center. November 20, 2014. Accessed August 01, 2019.
  8. “President Obama Ramps Up Family Separations.” National Immigration Law Center. May 12, 2016. Accessed May 9, 2022.
  9. “NILC Responds to Obama Administration’s Policy Shift on Haitian Refugees.” National Immigration Law Center. September 22, 2016. Accessed May 9, 2022.
  10. “Trump’s Racism Rears Its Ugly Head as Bipartisan Senate Group Proposes Principles of a DACA Deal.” National Immigration Law Center. January 12, 2018. Accessed May 9, 2022.
  11. “As Trump Prepares Immigration Rally in Arizona, Over 170 Organizations Release ‘2021 Immigration Action Plan,’ Offering Blueprint to Transform America’s Immigration System.” NILC Immigrant Justice Fund. August 18, 2020. Accessed May 3, 2022.
  12.  “NILC Immigrant Justice Fund Releases First Flight Of Digital Ads Targeting Persuadable Voters In Battleground States With Winning, Pro-Immigrant Messages.” NILC Immigrant Justice Fund. September 4, 2020. Accessed May 3, 2022.
  13. “NILC Immigrant Justice Fund Statement on Biden Victory in 2020 Presidential Election.” NILC Immigrant Justice Fund. October 7, 2020.
  14. “Browse Individual Contributions: Marielena Hincapié.” Accessed May 9, 2022.
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