National Immigrant Rights Leader Kica Matos to Serve as President of NILC and IJF 

April 26, 2023

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Emily Morris, 213-457-7458
Madison Allman, 202-384-1279

National Immigrant Rights Leader Kica Matos to Serve as President of NILC and IJF

WASHINGTON — The Boards of Directors for the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) and NILC Immigrant Justice Fund (IJF) today announced the appointment of Kica Matos as the organizations’ president. Matos, who joined NILC and IJF as executive vice president of programs and strategy in January 2023, brings over two decades of experience as an organizer and leader in the immigrant rights and social justice movements and as a litigator in state and federal court. She will step into the role in May.

Angela Banks, chair of the NILC board of directors, said: “Kica is a visionary leader who has fought for the rights and opportunities of low-income immigrants and their loved ones throughout her career. With her background in grassroots organizing and extensive experience at the most senior levels of large, impactful social justice organizations, she is the right person to advance NILC’s mission.”

Allen Erenbaum, chair of the IJF board of directors, said: “Given the current political environment and potential for building political power for immigrant communities, Kica’s leadership, knowledge, and skills make her the best person to continue advancing the goals of the IJF. We are excited for her to lead the IJF to even greater impact.”

Kica Matos, incoming president of NILC and IJF, said: “I am honored to be appointed president of NILC and IJF and to lead the organizations at a pivotal time not only in the immigrant rights movement, but in the history of our nation. Immigrants are vital to our country yet are too often the targets of politically motivated attacks and systemic injustices. For the last two decades, I have dedicated my career to fighting for justice for low-income immigrants at the local and national level. With the amazing staff at NILC and IJF, I will continue to fight for the rights of immigrant communities and help build a nation where all of us, regardless of how much money we have, what we look like, or where we were born, have the freedom to thrive.”

To advance NILC’s mission, Matos will play a pivotal role in leveraging the strategies outlined in NILC’s Strategic Framework for Transformational Change, which includes building power to achieve progressive legal and policy reforms, strengthening and expanding the movement for immigrant justice, and advancing narrative and culture change.

Before joining NILC and IJF, Matos was vice president of initiatives at the Vera Institute of Justice and held the role of director of Immigrant Rights and Racial Justice at the Center for Community Change. Additionally, she served as deputy mayor in the city of New Haven, where she oversaw community programs and launched new initiatives including prisoner re-entry and youth and immigrant integration.

Matos began her career as a community organizer and human rights advocate, including as research director of the Capital Punishment Project at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. She went on to become an Assistant Federal Defender in Philadelphia, where she represented death row inmates in state and federal courts. In 2002, Matos became the first woman to serve as executive director of JUNTA, New Haven’s oldest Latino advocacy organization.

Matos has a bachelor’s degree from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, a master’s from the New School, and a juris doctorate from Cornell Law School. She was awarded honorary doctorate degrees from Albertus Magnus College in 2017 and the University of New Haven in 2019. Matos was inducted into the Connecticut Women’s Hall of fame in 2021. She was born in Puerto Rico and lives in Connecticut.

Matos takes the helm of the organization from Sara K. Gould, interim executive director of NILC and IJF. Gould served as board chair of NILC and IJF before becoming interim executive director, stepping in to lead the organizations following the departure of long-time executive director, Marielena Hincapié, and will remain with the organization during the transition to permanent leadership.

Angela Banks, chair of the NILC board of directors, said: “We are incredibly grateful to Sara for her steadfast leadership as interim executive director of NILC over the past six months, and for her commitment to the mission of the organization, to the staff, and to advancing the rights of low-income immigrants in our nation.”

Allen Erenbaum, chair of the IJF board of directors, said: “Sara’s leadership helped the IJF prepare for our permanent president while ensuring the success of the important work ahead building political power for immigrant communities. The IJF is indebted to Sara for her leadership and unwavering commitment.”