Nicole Austin-Hillery is Human Rights Watch’s inaugural U.S. program executive director. In this newly created role, Nicole leads Human Rights Watch’s efforts to end violations in abusive systems within the United States. Her work focuses on improving the U.S. immigration system, tackling race discrimination and rights problems within the domestic criminal justice system, and advocating for national security policies informed by international human rights standards.
Previously, Nicole was the first director and counsel of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Washington, D.C., office which she opened in March 2008. At the Brennan Center, she oversaw the growth and development of the Center’s advocacy and policy development work in Washington and served as its chief representative before Congress and the executive branch. Nicole’s expertise is in the areas of voting rights, and racial and criminal justice reform. She also focuses on indigent defense and money in politics. She serves as a frequent spokesperson at national and international forums and in media, and has written opinion pieces for several publications, including Roll Call, CNN and BillMoyers.com.
She is the author of the chapter “Voting Rights as a Form of Voter Suppression” in the 2016 ABA book America Votes. Nicole is a former Wasserstein Fellow at Harvard Law School and is a graduate of the Howard University School of Law and Carnegie Mellon University.