Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia is the Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. The Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties reports to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) promotes respect for civil rights and civil liberties in policy creation and implementation by advising Department leadership and personnel, and state and local partners; to communicate with individuals and communities whose civil rights and civil liberties may be affected by Department activities, informing them about policies and avenues of redress and promoting appropriate attention within the Department to their experiences and concerns; to investigate civil rights and civil liberties complaints filed by the public regarding Department policies or activities, or actions taken by Department personnel; and to lead the Department's equal employment opportunity programs and promoting workforce diversity and merit system principles.
The Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties is responsible for assuring policies, programs, and other activities of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) do not violate the civil rights and liberties of individuals and communities. These rights and liberties are defined in the Constitution of the United States and by a body of laws, regulations, public notices, and court administrative procedures and decisions.
Prior to joining the Biden-Harris Administration, Wadhia was the Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; the Samuel Weiss Faculty Scholar; and Clinical Professor of Law at Penn State Law in University Park, where she is taking a leave of absence. Her research focuses on the role of prosecutorial discretion in immigration law and the intersections of race, national security, and immigration. Her work has been published in numerous law journals, including "Duke Law Journal," "Emory Law Journal," "Texas Law Review," "Washington and Lee Law Review," "Harvard Latino Law Review," "Administrative Law Review," "Howard Law Journal," "Georgetown Immigration Law Journal," and "Columbia Journal of Race and Law." Wadhia is the author of two award-winning books with New York University Press: "Beyond Deportation: The Role of Prosecutorial Discretion in Immigration Cases (2015) and Banned: Immigration Enforcement in the Time of Trump" (2019). She is also the co-author of "Immigration and Nationality Law: Problems and Solutions," published by Carolina Academic Press.
Wadhia’s scholarship has been cited in dozens of law journals and by federal circuit courts, including Judge Richard Posner (article on deferred action), Judge Paul J. Watford (article on the role of discretion in speed deportation), and Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw (“See generally” citation to book "Beyond Deportation"), Judge Julius N. Richardson (co-authored article and Chevron deference and immigration), and Judge Andrew S. Oldham (co-authored article on Chevron deference and immigration).
Wadhia served as the inaugural Editor-In-Chief of the "American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Law Journal" from 2019-2022. She has testified before Congress on the history of prosecutorial discretion in immigration cases and the civil rights and discrimination in Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities.
At Penn State Law, Professor Wadhia teaches doctrinal courses in immigration and asylum and refugee law. She also helped to develop a course on Law & (In)equity. Wadhia is the founder/director of the Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic (CIRC), where she supervises students in three areas: 1) community outreach; 2) legal support in individual immigration cases; and 3) policy work for institutional clients. CIRC has earned a national reputation for its high-quality work product and impact in the community. CIRC was honored with the Excellence in Legal Advocacy Award in 2017 by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and named legal organization of the year in 2019 by the Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center.
Previously, Professor Wadhia was deputy director for legal affairs at the National Immigration Forum in Washington, D.C., where she provided legal and policy expertise on multiple legislative efforts, including the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, comprehensive immigration reform, immigration enforcement, and immigration policy post 9/11. Wadhia has also been an associate with the immigration law firm, Maggio Kattar of P.C. in Washington, D.C., where she represented individuals and families in asylum, deportation, family, and employment-based immigration.
Wadhia has received many awards, including Pro Bono Attorney of the Year by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in 2003, leadership awards by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and Office of the Inspector General in 2008, 2017 Honoree by the National Immigration Project, Arnold Addison Award for Town and Gown Relations by the Borough of State College in 2019, and the 2019 Elmer Friend Excellence in Teaching Award by the American Immigration Lawyers Association. In 2020, Wadhia received the university-wide Rosemary Schraer Mentoring Award and was named a Fastcase 50 Awardee, which honors 50 of "the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries, & leaders." In 2022, Wadhia received the President’s Commendation and the Michael Maggio Pro Bono Award as a member of the Afghan Response Taskforce from the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
Wadhia holds a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center and a B.A. from Indiana University Bloomington. She was elected to the American Law Institute in 2021.