AILA Presents ACLU Attorney Ahilan Arulanantham with the 2010 Arthur C. Helton Human Rights Award

Tuesday, June 29, 2010
George Tzamaras

Sara Ibrahim

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) awarded Ahilan Arulanantham, Director, Immigrants' Rights and National Security, ACLU of Southern California, the 2010 Arthur C. Helton Human Rights Award for his body of innovative litigation and its enormous benefits for countless vulnerable non-citizens for their rights and dignity. Arthur Helton was a shining example with a distinguished career as an advocate for refugees and asylum-seekers. Arulanantham exemplifies the qualities of Arthur Helton - compassion, intellect, tenacity, and strategic thinking that are the hallmarks of excellence in the advancement of human rights. He will receive the award on July 3, 2010 during AILA's Annual Conference held in National Harbor, MD.

Arulanantham litigates before federal courts, the Board of Immigration Appeals, and immigration courts. Most recently, a team of attorneys led by Arulanantham won a major class certification victory in a class action challenging the detention of noncitizens held in the Central District of California for more than six months without a bond hearing while in immigration proceedings.

Arulanantham has achieved remarkable successes in curbing ICE's use of prolonged and indefinite detention. Arulanantham co-litigated a 2009 action against ICE's derelict "B-18" detention facility in Los Angeles. Arulanantham's suit resulted in a comprehensive settlement regarding a badly overcrowded facility in which there was no soap or drinking water. The settlement not only rectified appalling conditions of detention, but also halted ICE's practice of moving detainees back and forth to local jails in an effort to avoid rules prohibiting long-term detention at B-18.

Arulanantham is also a fine teacher, frequently lecturing in CLE settings and offering a seminar on preventive detention at the University of Chicago Law School. Arulanantham puts great effort into mentoring his legal interns, allowing them to take on high-level litigation tasks while patiently guiding them and building their confidence.

Prior to joining the ACLU's Southern California office, Arulanantham was an Assistant Federal Public Defender in El Paso, Texas for two years. Before that, he was a fellow at the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project in New York, where he provided legal assistance to dozens of non-citizens detained after the September 11th attacks. Arulanantham is a former law clerk to the Honorable Stephen Reinhardt of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, a graduate of Yale Law School, and a graduate of Oxford University, which he attended as a Marshall Scholar.


The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 10062965.