Vanita Gupta (ACLU)
Vanita Gupta is a staff attorney with the Racial Justice Program of the American Civil Liberties Union National Office, where she litigates civil rights cases related to access to justice, criminal justice, the school-to-prison pipeline, education reform, and immigrants’ rights. She recently won a landmark settlement in a group of related federal lawsuits challenging the civil detention of immigrant children in a converted medium security prison. This facility is run by a private adult prison company on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security called the Hutto Family Detention Center in Taylor, Texas. The settlement resulted in wide-sweeping conditions reforms as well as the release of the twenty-six plaintiffs and their parents. She also currently teaches a civil rights clinic at NYU School of Law as an adjunct professor.
Prior to joining the ACLU, Vanita was assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) where she litigated civil rights cases that promoted systemic reform of the criminal justice system. At LDF, she successfully led the effort to overturn the drug convictions of 38 defendants in Tulia, Texas, representing wrongfully-convicted individuals and coordinating the legal and media strategy that involved over a dozen national law firms. She also served on the legal team that won freedom for renowned prison journalist Wilbert Rideau in his fourth retrial after he had already spent forty-four years in the Louisiana State Penitentiary.
Vanita has been quoted extensively in the media and has won numerous awards for her advocacy. She has served as a consultant for the Open Society Institute on various international human rights projects in Central Europe and Africa. She serves on the advisory committee of Human Rights Watch US Programs and the board of Working Films, Inc.
Michelle Brané (Women’s Refugee Commission)
As the Director of the Detention and Asylum program at the Women’s Refugee Commission, Michelle Brané focuses on the critical protection needs of women and children asylum seekers in the United States. Michelle has more than 18 years of experience working on immigration and human rights issues.
As an attorney advisor with the Department of Justice Board of Immigration Appeals she specialized in asylum cases and assisted in developing relevant regulations and training programs for new staff. She has extensive experience in program management and advocacy. At Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service she developed and coordinated the Detained Torture Survivor Legal Support Network, the Legal Orientation Program and was the Director of the Access to Justice Unit. She has also worked internationally with human rights organizations in India and as a Human Rights Officer with the OSCE in Bosnia, where she also served as the Head of the Sarajevo Field Office. Michelle holds a B.A. in international studies from the University of Michigan, and J.D. from Georgetown University and is a member of the New York bar.
Barbara Hines (University of Texas School of Law)
Barbara Hines has practiced in the field of immigration law since 1975. She has been Board Certified in Immigration and Nationality Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization since 1981. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Immigration Project and of the Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project of the Texas Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Ms. Hines was a Fulbright scholar in Argentina in 1996 and 2004.
In 1992, she received the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s prestigious Jack Wasserman Award for Excellence in the Field of Immigration Law, and in 1993, the Texas AILA Chapter’s litigation award. In 1993, Ms. Hines was named Best Immigration Lawyer by the Austin Chronicle. In 2000, Texas Lawyer selected Ms. Hines as one of the hundred outstanding Texas lawyers. She lectures nationally and throughout the state on immigration issues.
Ms. Hines currently directs the Immigration Clinic at the University of Texas Law School. Although she takes only limited cases at the firm, she advises, consults, and co-counsels the other attorneys at Hines & Leigh.
Bob Libal is Texas Campaigns Coordinator for Grassroots Leadership, a 29 year-old southern-based social justice organization. For three and a half years, he served as co-coordinator of the Grassroots Leadership’s Not With Our Money! Campaign, organizing with students against private prison investments. He has advocated for federal detention reform and against private prison expansion with South Texans Opposing Private Prisons and Texans United for Families, opposing the policy of family detention. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.