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Gregory Pleasants

Gregory Pleasants

Chief Strategy and Program Innovation Officer

Gregory is the Chief Strategy and Program Innovation Officer for the Acacia Center for Justice. In this role, Gregory is part of the executive management team and helps lead organizational development, strategic planning, and program innovation. The overarching goal of Gregory’s work is to ensure that all people impacted by the U.S. immigration system have zealous and person-centered legal defense. 

Gregory previously served as Director of Transition at the Vera Institute of Justice’s Center on Immigration and Justice, leading new areas of work building on CIJ’s success managing immigrant legal defense programs. Previously, Gregory directed the National Qualified Representative Program (NQRP), which provides counsel to people who are detained, unrepresented, and found mentally incompetent to represent themselves in immigration proceedings. Gregory joined Vera after helping the Executive Office for Immigration Review create the NQRP and after a 2007-2009 EJW fellowship creating protections—including the right to counsel—for people in immigration proceedings with serious mental health conditions. 

Gregory has also proudly served as a federal public defender at Federal Defenders of San Diego (CA) and as a state public defender at the Guilford County Public Defender (NC). Gregory is also a practicing, recovery-oriented social worker and has served as a clinician in a psychiatric hospital, has practiced special education law, and has taught mental health policy at the CSU-Fullerton school of social work. Gregory currently teaches mental health law at the USC School of Law as a part-time Lecturer in Law.  

Before earning his joint JD/MSW at USC, Gregory spent years as an AmeriCorps volunteer and working with children living on the street in Mexico and Nicaragua.

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