Luz María Henríquez is the Executive Director of the ACLU of Missouri, where she leads the organization’s legal, policy, communications, fundraising and administrative operations and programs. Luz provides the leadership, vision, and strategic planning necessary to address civil rights and liberties issues in Missouri as they emerge and to advance these liberties and rights in the decades to come. She joins the ACLU of Missouri as the Executive Director following a career of advocating for racial justice. Before joining the ACLU, she was the managing attorney of the Education Justice Program at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, a program she founded to advance education equity and preserve the civil rights of students. She led a team that engaged in various impact advocacy tools, including affirmative litigation, community collaboration and empowerment, and media advocacy, to achieve the program’s mission. She was the lead attorney on landmark cases in Missouri, including a matter involving the rights of students experiencing homelessness which sought to correct the disproportional impact of educational deprivations on communities of color.
As a child of undocumented immigrants who grew up in Fontana, California, she witnessed the most vulnerable people in her community being taken advantage of and decided to fight for justice. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of California, San Diego, she was inspired to pursue law, recognizing that she could use her law degree and skill sets to bring about change in an unjust system. Luz went on to earn her Juris Doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law after completing her third year as a visiting law student at New York University School of Law. In New York City, she worked at the firm Hogan Lovells, where she gained experience in litigation, and pro bono work. She received the law firm’s Pro Bono Associate of the Year Award in 2013.
Luz moved to St. Louis in 2014, where she became a staff attorney for Legal Services of Eastern Missouri and subsequently built and ran the Education Justice Program. Her daughter is her driving force and reminds her daily of how imperative it is to address the systemic barriers oppressing the most vulnerable populations, denying them of their civil rights and liberties. She wants to ensure that her daughter and others do not have to endure the same long-fought battles and can focus their energy on bringing about more positive change.
Luz serves on the advisory board and as faculty of the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law’s Racial Justice Institute, a revolutionary, national leadership program with a network of advocates committed to race-equity. She has also served on the Juvenile Subcommittee of the Missouri Supreme Court’s Commission on Racial and Ethnic Fairness. The goal of the commission is to eliminate systemic barriers to racial and ethnic fairness in the Missouri court system by identifying challenges, researching solutions, and making recommendations for improvement.
Luz received Missouri Lawyer’s Diversity and Inclusion award in 2019 for advancing diversity, inclusion and the dignity of communities in Missouri in which exceptional legal work impacts justice for all. Luz also received Missouri Lawyer’s Women’s Justice Rising Star award in 2017, which is “Awarded to female lawyers 40 years old and younger or within the first 10 years of practice who have already made a difference in the justice system or the profession and who appear on a path toward even greater accomplishment.”