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Ellen Gallagher

Ellen Gallagher has worked for the federal government since 1995, originally as a trial attorney for the former Immigration and Naturalization Service in New York City and in San Antonio, Texas, and later as Special Counsel in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Office of the Chief Counsel (2003-2012). In 2007, she served as a Congressional Fellow for the Senate Judiciary Committee, where her assignments included helping draft Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation. From 2012-2013, Ms. Gallagher served as Senior Ombudsman within the DHS Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman.  She left that position to become a Policy Advisor in the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. In the fall of 2014, Ms. Gallagher first began reporting whistleblower concerns regarding the widespread use of solitary confinement in immigration detention.  In complaints filed with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel and the DHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG), Ms. Gallagher sought to bring attention to ongoing violations of law and policy that pose a danger of imminent harm, particularly to mentally ill and other vulnerable detainees.  Her whistleblowing from 2014-2019 also involved repeated outreach to members of House and Senate oversight committees.  In the absence of meaningful action to address these concerns, Ms. Gallagher agreed to go on the record with the press.  In May of 2019, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, in conjunction with the Intercept, NBC News and Univision, published the results of an extensive investigation on the use of solitary confinement in immigration detention which featured her accounts.  These articles have prompted additional scrutiny by Members of Congress, legislation to restrict the use of solitary confinement in immigration detention, and other calls for reform.  With the assistance of the Government Accountability Project, Ms. Gallagher has further published articles in the Washington Post and Ms. Magazine


Ms. Gallagher works as a Senior Advisor in the DHS OIG Office of Inspector General.  She also serves as an Adjunct Professor at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts, where she teaches a course entitled, Immigration and the American Ideal.  Before entering on duty for the federal government, Ellen received a Skadden Fellowship to work in New York City, where she represented children with disabilities in the public school system. Ellen earned her B.A. from Harvard College in 1984 and her J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law in 1991.