Golnaz Brings a Community-First Approach, Litigation Expertise that Includes Immigrant and Disability Justice
Washington, DC — At a time when human rights are increasingly under assault and the needs and hopes of impacted communities are growing, Muslim Advocates today named Golnaz Fakhimi as its next legal director. Golnaz comes from the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC), where she served as a senior staff attorney and worked at the intersection of immigrant justice and disability justice. There, she led work on strategic lawsuits against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and she expanded and deepened relationships and advocacy with partners seeking the abolition of the immigration detention-and-deportation system. As Muslim Advocates’ new legal director, Golnaz will develop the organization’s impact litigation and advocacy strategies using a movement-lawyering approach and drawing from proven ties to impacted communities and grassroots partners.
Golnaz is an Iranian-American immigrant who spent most of her formative years between Texas and New York City, where she observed and experienced firsthand how the post-9/11 surveillance state targets Muslim, immigrant, and BIPOC communities. She is a committed, people-led, movement lawyer who has spent her career fighting structural marginalization and institutional racism. Her expertise and experience encompass deportation defense, habeas corpus actions and bond hearings, criminal appeals and post-conviction relief, civil rights actions, and providing technical assistance to movement leaders and partners. At CREEC, she led complex impact litigation and collaborative advocacy at the intersection of immigrant justice and disability justice. Golnaz came to CREEC from the CUNY School of Law’s Immigrant & Non-Citizen Rights Clinic, where she served as a Visiting Assistant Professor and intensively taught and supervised student teams representing vulnerable and indigent clients. Previously, she held staff attorney roles at the ACLU of Pennsylvania, Appellate Advocates, The Bronx Defenders, and the International Justice Network.
“I cannot wait to throw down, dream, and learn in collaboration with Muslim Advocates’ staff, clients, movement partners, and community allies,” said Golnaz Fakhimi. “For more than a decade, I’ve stood in solidarity with clients and allies within a variety of courts and other fora to fight hard against harms reflecting the structural marginalization of people across multiple aspects of their identities and experiences. My clients have fled extreme violence and poverty, have faced torture and imprisonment without charge or trial by the U.S. military, and have faced identity-based law-enforcement scrutiny and the criminal convictions and collateral consequences that flow from it. Over the years, my work has confronted me with both the power and limits of legal advocacy within existing frameworks and channels. At Muslim Advocates, I’m deeply grateful and excited to do work that defends and builds the power of impacted people to demand and create a future that prioritizes the shared wellbeing of everyone.”
“Muslim Advocates becomes a stronger, more effective, and more tenacious organization today for having Golnaz Fakhimi join us,” said Muslim Advocates Executive Director Omar Farah. “Golnaz’s legal mind, her defense of the vulnerable, and her technical expertise—accumulated after years lawyering at the intersection of post-9/11 securitization of Muslim communities, the criminal legal system, immigrant justice, and disability justice—sharpens our ability to respond to whatever our clients need of us. Her legal ability and dedication aside, Golnaz’s kindness and integrity are known qualities in the social justice field; they will enrich Muslim Advocates’ partnerships from her very first day with us.”
“Golnaz Fakhimi and I worked together as litigators and educators in the fight against government surveillance and the over-policing of BIPOC, immigrant, and Muslim communities,” said Naz Ahmad, acting director of CUNY CLEAR. “Golnaz’s trademark integrity, compassion, and sharp legal mind will be real assets to Muslim Advocates’ legal team as they have been to our movement for racial and social justice.”
“Golnaz is among the vanguard of attorneys who helped the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project, the first public-defender program in the country for detained immigrants fighting deportation, forge a path for other localities around the country to defend immigrants from the cruelty and violence of detention and deportation,” said Karla Ostolaza, managing director of the immigration practice at The Bronx Defenders. “Together, the two of us worked side-by-side on the ground to defend the dignity of working class families, immigrants, and communities of color. I’m thrilled that she has the opportunity to continue and expand on this important work at Muslim Advocates.”
“Golnaz helped represent us in major lawsuits that challenged violent border policies and the cruelty of the immigration detention system, particularly its systemic failures to meet the medical and disability-related needs of the people it sends to their death or cages. She is devoted to her core to helping the vulnerable people we serve, and it is always a pleasure to work with her to find creative ways to advocate for them,” said Diego Aranda Teixeira, managing attorney for litigation at Al Otro Lado.
Muslim Advocates is a national civil rights organization that uses litigation, policy engagement and communications strategies to promote justice and equity while protecting the diverse spectrum of Muslim communities from anti-Muslim discrimination in all of its forms.