Lawrenceville Native Amol Sinha, who recently led state advocacy campaigns raising awareness about wrongful convictions nationwide at the Innocence Project, has been named the new executive director of the ACLU-NJ.
Sinha, a Jersey City resident, will begin his new position on Sept. 1. He has a long history with the ACLU that dates back to his time as student at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, when he worked as an intern for the national ACLU. Later he was the director of the Suffolk County chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, where he convinced Suffolk County to stop honoring Obama-era immigration detainers before the policy was rolled back. Under his leadership, the chapter successfully defeated unconstitutional policing and surveillance schemes and investigated public schools that prohibited immigrant students from enrolling.
“We expect Amol will bring both his passion for civil liberties, civil rights, and social justice, and his knowledge as a longtime New Jersey resident, to continue to move the ACLU-NJ forward,” said ACLU-NJ Board President Deb Guston.
Sinha is the first person of color to lead the ACLU-NJ and one of the first South Asian executive directors of an ACLU affiliate. The son of Indian immigrants who came to America in the early 1970s, Sinha said he witnessed interactions growing up that indicated some people viewed him and his family differently because of their immigrant South Asian roots. He said such incidents were an introduction to larger injustices faced by many groups.
“The issues South Asian communities face are emblematic of civil rights issues – immigrants’ rights, racial justice, religious freedom, economic injustice, language access, gender-based discrimination, LGBT issues, and biased policing all impact South Asian communities in significant ways,” Sinha said. “New Jersey has the largest proportion of South Asian residents of any state, so it’s meaningful for a member of that community to lead our state’s ACLU. But, I truly believe in unity and breaking barriers across communities. I want every community and every person in New Jersey to know they can call on the ACLU as a resource.”
The first few months on the job, Sinha plans to travel across the state, listen to people and meet with leaders of numerous organizations to build partnerships.
“One quality of the ACLU I most admire is its inexhaustible capacity to remain principled, yet evolve to confront the ever-changing threats to our liberties, as we have seen this year,” Sinha said. “Crucially, the struggles for racial justice and the principles of free speech – both so fundamental to New Jersey communities – can be reconciled, and in this climate, they must. It may be complicated, but the ACLU does not shy away from complexity. We’re in it for the long haul.”