Current Opening: DWN Executive Director

Executive Director Job Announcement

Detention Watch Network

Washington, DC

Mission: Through the collective strength and diversity of its members, the Detention Watch Network exposes and challenges the injustices of the U.S. immigration detention and deportation system and advocates for profound change that promotes the rights and dignity of all persons.

The Executive Director Search

The Detention Watch Network (DWN), the only national network that focuses exclusively on U.S. immigration detention and deportation issues, seeks a dynamic movement building leader to serve as Executive Director. Under the leadership of the outgoing Executive Director, Andrea Black, DWN has gone from a loose network to a national member-led coalition with over 94 organizations and more than 100 individuals in 22 states and the District of Columbia. Recognized as the “go-to” resource on detention issues by media and policymakers, DWN unites diverse constituencies to end the use of immigration detention through a targeted communications and base building strategy.

The DWN Executive Director position calls for an extraordinary leader with exceptional skills in the areas of social justice activism, strategic communications, management and fundraising. We are seeking applicants with a demonstrated commitment and passion for DWN’s mission and a strong track record in social movement work.                                                                   

The DWN Executive Director reports to an active and engaged thirteen member Steering Committee, works collaboratively with a talented staff of five and oversees a $630,000 annual operating budget.

RoadMap Consulting, a national team of capacity builders dedicated to advancing social justice organizations is conducting the search. Nominations, inquiries and application materials should be submitted in confidence to edsearch [at] detentionwatchnetwork [dot] org as indicated at the end of this announcement.

Overview and Vision

DWN began in 1997 in response to the explosive growth of the immigration detention and deportation system in the United States.  Over the course of sixteen years, DWN has evolved from a loose network of service providers, national advocates and faith representatives into a dues-based, member-led coalition. DWN is widely recognized as a national leader in the movement to end the use of immigration detention, with 94 organizations and over 100 individual members that include formerly detained people and their families, community and faith-based groups, legal service providers, national and regional advocates, law school clinics and concerned citizens.

DWN understands that a staged systemic approach is what is needed to reach their vision of a world without immigration detention. To that end they will work to 1) reduce detention with an immediate focus on ending mandatory detention, 2) expose and improve conditions in the existing system to alleviate the daily suffering of immigrants in detention and increase public awareness of the detention system, and 3) advance community-based support programs as an alternative option for all individuals in detention, including those subject to mandatory detention.


Among some of the more recent achievements, DWN members provided strategy and organizing support to local groups fighting the expansion of detention facilities in Illinois, Texas and Florida. DWN members successfully stopped the construction of new detention centers in Crete and Joliet, Illinois and Southwest Ranches, Florida.

In 2012, DWN united its diverse membership launching a new strategic direction to end unjust mandatory detention laws while challenging the role of immigration detention prompted by the mass incarceration crisis in the U.S.

Through DWN’s participation in the DHS Advisory Group on Detention and the ICE Working Group, DWN members have pressed administration officials and policymakers on a number of issues, including: detainers, safe release, transfers, indefinite detention, the Risk Assessment Tool, the release of the 2011 Performance Based National Detention Standards (PBNDS), the segregation of LGBT individuals in detention, and the Prison Rape Elimination Act. As a result of members’ advocacy, ICE developed a new Detainee Locator System issued new directives on transfers, visitation and safe releases, and is currently implementing the Risk Assessment Tool.

DWN members successfully raised awareness of detention through the coordinated national release of ten “Expose and Close” Reports which detail the acute and chronic human right violations occurring in immigration detention in the United States today. The release garnered extensive media attention, including national news outlets and local media coverage in eight states. Following the reports release, over 300 organizations signed a letter to President Obama calling on him to close down the 10 facilities highlighted in the reports.

Finally, DWN played a leadership role in building cross-sector partnerships between criminal justice and immigrant rights groups. DWN worked with allies to organize the Beyond Criminalization retreat for 32 participants; helped convene the Federal Strategy Group which is advocating against the influence of the for-profit prison industry in the immigration detention business including the secretive Criminal Alien Requirement (CAR) facilities which target immigrants; played a leadership role in Enlace’s Private Prison Divestment Campaign; and developed a curriculum to educate the immigrant rights and criminal justice communities about the intersection of the criminal justice and the immigration detention and deportation systems.

Challenges and Opportunities

Looking ahead, the dependence on immigration detention is unlikely to change any time soon. There continues to be a vast public awareness gap despite extensive media attention over the past several years.  The utter injustice of the system, with repeated abuses and suffering caused to people in detention and to their families, and the impact on communities across the country remains largely hidden or ignored.

Regardless of the outcome on this year’s legislative debate of immigration reform, the detention system will remain substantially in place, although the recently passed Senate bill includes a range of important due process reforms and the recently announced resignations of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and ICE Director John Morton might provide an opening for policy and systemic changes.  Regardless, DWN members will need to redouble their efforts to make significant inroads towards the long-term goals of ending mandatory detention.

Among DWN’s distinguishing attributes is its issue focus and approach. As a Network they have demonstrated consistent leadership by disclosing how the detention system is a driving force in the enforcement-detention-deportation continuum that threatens basic civil and human rights.

The new Executive Director will inherit a vibrant organization, with a staff and Steering Committee deeply knowledgeable and experienced in the fields of immigrant detention and racial justice.  This is an opportunity to assume the leadership of an organization at the forefront of a social justice movement, fighting for one of the defining causes of our time: the advancement of an immigration system that upholds due process and the civil and human rights of all people.

The key challenges and opportunities for the Executive Director include:

  • Reframing the narrative around immigration detention that moves the public discourse toward one that incorporates a racial justice and human rights analyses.
  • Expanding the role of the Network’s membership to become increasingly inclusive, united, committed and engaged in DWN’s collective work.
  • Increasing the visibility and political momentum to address our issues through effective campaigns and actions.
  • Increasing and diversifying DWN’s funding base.
  • Establishing DWN as a thought leader with increasing credibility and access to policy and opinion makers.

Qualifications and Experience

For this pivotal role DWN seeks a dynamic and creative leader who is committed to and passionate about justice for immigrants and people impacted by mass incarceration. The Executive Director will provide vision and leadership to set and accomplish realistic goals and outcomes that further DWN’s mission. This position requires further development of a diverse membership and strengthening of alliances with other immigration, criminal justice groups and networks to reach the next level of organizational growth. The ideal candidate will use consensus building in executing DWN’s strategic goals, working in partnership with the membership, staff and steering committee.

While no candidate will embody every quality, the successful candidate will bring many of the following qualifications and personal attributes:

  • Demonstrated experience and commitment to advancing social justice activism.  Has been impacted or directly affected by mass incarceration, detention or immigration issues.
  • Exceptional communication and facilitative skills, and an ability to engage and work with diverse groups of people in an open and respectful way. Knowing when and how to allow others to assume leadership roles.
  • Demonstrated capacity to work with allies, policymakers, opinion makers, government officials and concerned citizens.
  • Exceptional analytical and advocacy abilities. Tenacity and resilience in the face of political pressure, media scrutiny and bureaucratic resistance.
  • Drive and diversify fundraising by strengthening existing relationships with individual donors and foundations, cultivating new donors, prospecting new grants, and developing innovative funding sources.
  • Commitment to encouraging a healthy and collective work environment that values work and personal life balance. Recognition that creativity, health and humor among staff enrich the work of the organization.
  • Excellent organizational skills, ability to balance multiple tasks, respond calmly under pressure, be a reliable team player and both set and meet deadlines.
  • Ability to oversee and implement a vital communications strategy and to be responsive to media and social networking shifts and opportunities while simultaneously maintaining the priorities and goals of the strategic plan.
  • A high level of emotional intelligence and capacity for self-reflection and self-improvement.
  • Bilingual capacity preferred but not required.
  • Willingness to travel up to 20% of the time to represent DWN. The position will be based at DWN's office in Washington, D. C.

For More Information or To Apply:

Please email inquiries, candidate nominations and applications in confidence to:

edsearch [at] detentionwatchnetwork [dot] org

Applications should be submitted electronically and must include a cover letter, résumé and three references.  No calls please.

Detention Watch Network, a project of the Tides Center, is an equal opportunity employer. We strongly encourage and seek applications from women, people of color, including bilingual and bicultural individuals, as well as members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender communities. Applicants shall not be discriminated against because of race, religion, sex, national origin, ethnicity, age, disability, political affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity, color, marital status, medical condition (cancer-related) or conditions Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and AIDS-related conditions (ARC). Reasonable accommodation will be made so that qualified disabled applicants may participate in the application process. Please advise in writing of special needs at the time of application. For more information about DWN, please visit and about the Tides Center, please visit