Ahilan Arulanantham


Senior Counsel



Twitter handle



Ahilan T. Arulanantham is Senior Counsel at the ACLU of Southern California. He has successfully litigated a number of cases involving immigrants’ rights, including Franco-Gonzalez v. Holder, the first case to establish a federal right to appointed counsel for any group of immigrants, Jennings v. Rodriguez, which he argued twice before the United States Supreme Court, and Ramos v. Nielsen, a challenge to the Trump Administration's plan to end the TPS program for 300,000 immigrants, most of whom have lived here for decades. Ahilan has also testified before the United States Congress on three occasions, and served as a Lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School and at the University of Irvine School of Law, where he taught on Preventive Detention.

Ahilan’s parents are Sri Lankan Tamil immigrants who left Sri Lanka to escape race discrimination and sporadic violence. Several years after they came to this country, the Sri Lankan civil war began, causing much of his extended family to flee Sri Lanka. Ahilan has represented several Sri Lankan Tamil refugees during the course of his work with the ACLU.

Prior to joining the ACLU in Los Angeles, Ahilan worked as an Assistant Federal Public Defender in El Paso, Texas for two years. Before that, he was an EJW fellow at the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project in New York and a law clerk on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit for the Honorable Stephen Reinhardt. In 2007 and 2013 he was named one of California Lawyer Magazine’s Lawyers of the Year for immigrants’ rights, and has repeatedly been named one of the Daily Journal’s Top 100 Lawyers in California over the last decade. In 2010 he received the Arthur C. Helton Human Rights Award from the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association. In 2014 he received the Jack Wasserman Memorial Award for litigation to protect the rights of vulnerable immigrants, also from the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association.

In 2016 Ahilan received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.