New York University’s Making a Difference Award was presented to Alina Das ’05, professor of clinical law and co-director of NYU Law’s Immigrant Rights Clinic, at a ceremony at the Kimmel Center for University Life on September 27. 

Alina Das Awarded every two years, the honor recognizes four members of the NYU community—including students, faculty, recent alumni, and staff—whose work has made a lasting impact locally or globally. 

At the September 27 event, NYU president Andrew Hamilton lauded Das’s dedication to protecting the rights of immigrants in the United States and within the NYU community. In particular, he praised her advocacy in the wake of the Trump administration’s 2017 travel ban, which overnight barred the entry of immigrants from seven countries and resulted in the detention of at least one NYU graduate student at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

“You rushed to the airport and you advocated for her release,” Hamilton said to Das. “You stayed by her side throughout the night and into the next day until she was free and allowed to enter the United States.”

Other recipients of this year’s Making a Difference Awards were Isabela Acenas, College of Arts and Science ’21, who founded an agricultural entrepreneurship project in the Philippines; Her Excellency Shamma Suhail Faris Al Azrui, NYU Abu Dhabi ’14 and Minister of State for Youth Affairs for the United Arab Emirates, for furthering the rights of minors in the UAE; and the NYU Veterans Working Group, whose members are administrators from across NYU and whose work supports veterans on campus. 

Before joining the law school faculty, Das, who was a Root-Tilden-Kern Scholar at NYU Law, served as a Soros Justice Fellow and staff attorney with the Immigrant Defense Project, where she specialized in representing clients at the intersection of immigration and criminal law. Das has previously been awarded the NYU Law Podell Teaching Award, NYU’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Faculty Award, the NYU Center for Multicultural Education and Programs Nia Faculty Award, and the NYU Women of Color Collective’s Woman of Distinction Award. 

In her acceptance speech, Das thanked Dean Trevor Morrison, Professor of Clinical Law Nancy Morawetz ’81, Jessica Rofé, and Noelia Rodriguez for their work in the creation of the Immigrant Defense Initiative, housed within the Immigrant Rights Clinic, which provides free counsel and representation to NYU community members—and their immediate family—who are at risk of deportation.

“It [has] once again occurred to me how important it is and how wonderful it is that NYU works so hard to be a welcoming place to all people, including those who face barriers,” Das said. “And it also makes me appreciate the great work that groups here at NYU do to ensure that we can imagine a better future for our community as well as the entire world.”  

Posted October 3, 2018