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Ehsan Zaffar, J.D.

Ehsan Zaffar has served his country and community as a journalist, a first responder, a civil rights lawyer, a professor, a diplomat and a senior government official. Born overseas, he fled war as a child and came to the U.S. as a refugee. As an undergrad he launched a non-profit mentorship organization for young adults. As a young lawyer he pioneered a global mobile legal aid clinic model to bring legal care to those who needed it most. Today he advises the government on civil rights issues, teaches students about their rights and freedoms and fights bigotry in all its forms around the world.

As Senior Advisor on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the Department of Homeland Security in Washington D.C. he advises the Secretary of Homeland Security and DHS components on the civil rights and civil liberties implications of existing and proposed national security policies, programs, and procedures. Mr. Zaffar leads the Department’s efforts to implement UNHRC Resolution 16/18 to combat intolerance and violence against persons on the basis of religion or belief. He represents the Department on issues related to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and issues concerning the LGBTQ community. In addition to his policy work, Mr. Zaffar works to build resilience and diminish retaliation against diverse communities in the wake of domestic national security and natural disaster incidents. He has worked with victims on the ground after the tragic events at the 2013 Boston Marathon, the PULSE Nightclub in Florida, at the AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina and most recently after the tragic shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In addition to his previous appointments, Mr. Zaffar serves as a Senior Non-Resident Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley and is a member of the faculties of Georgetown University School of Law’s International Legal Institute, George Mason University, George Washington University and Temple University’s Fox School of Business. He teaches courses on civil rights and human rights, ethics and economic justice. He has been invited to testify on these issues at the United States Congress and around the world, most recently in Spain, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Macedonia.

Prior to government service, Mr. Zaffar worked in private practice and co-founded the Los Angeles Mobile Legal Aid Clinic (LAMLAC) which helped to pioneer the delivery of mobile legal care to low-income and vulnerable populations in California and abroad.

Most recently Mr. Zaffar joined the Advisory Board for Team Rubicon, an organization that helps returning veterans apply their skills to assist diverse communities facing natural disasters. He is also a board member at Developments in Literacy (DIL), a non-profit organization that develops teacher training tools for schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods as well as the Amani Institute, a social entrepreneurship curriculum training institute in Kenya, India and Brazil. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Chatham House (the British Royal Institute of International Affairs), the Pacific Council on International Policy and has previously served as a liaison to the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Standing Committee on National Security Law.

Mr. Zaffar earned his JD in 2008 from Pepperdine University School of Law where he also completed his Certificate in Dispute Resolution from the Straus Institute. He is licensed to practice law in California and the District of Columbia and is a panel mediator on national security and civil rights matters with the Agency for Dispute Resolution.

Mr. Zaffar is a columnist at U.S. News & World Report and his writing has appeared on, Slate, and The Huffington Post. His books Understanding Homeland Security: Foundations of Security Policy was released in 2019 and his next work: Legal, Ethical & Moral Dilemmas in First Amendment Jurisprudence will be published in spring 2020 by Routledge Press.

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