A civil rights attorney for three decades, Elizabeth R. OuYang’s areas of expertise include voting, census, redistricting, immigration, race, sex, and disability discrimination at the workplace, media accountability, and combating hate crimes and police brutality. President Clinton appointed OuYang to serve as special assistant to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Over the past twenty years, OuYang has taught more than 2,000 students at Columbia University and New York University. As a consultant to The New York Community Trust, OuYang coordinated a funding collaborative to support organizations helping immigrants integrate into New York City. A former President and current consultant to OCA-NY Asian Pacific American Advocates, a non-profit, volunteer civil rights organization, Ms. OuYang founded and supervises its Hate Crimes Prevention Art Project, now in its 15th successful year. As a civic engagement expert, OuYang serves as a consultant to national and local groups: APIA-VOTE, the New York Immigration Coalition, the New York Immigrant Action Fund, APA VOICE (Voting and Organizing to Increase Civic Engagement), and the Museum of Chinese in America.
Born in Rochester, New York, Elizabeth R. OuYang is the proud daughter of immigrant parents. Inspired by the work of community lawyer Regina Lee and the 1982 murder of Vincent Chin, OuYang embarked on a legal career in civil rights. Vincent Chin was bludgeoned to death on the eve of his wedding by two white auto workers who mistook him for being Japanese and blamed him for Detroit’s decline in the automobile industry.
Her law career began in Boston with a two-person firm, Gilmore and Iandoli. OuYang helped immigrants file visa petitions, asylum claims, and legalization under the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act and worked on race and sex discrimination cases. Later, OuYang became a staff attorney at the Disability Law Center where she represented persons with disabilities in employment, housing, and public access discrimination cases.
Then in 1991, OuYang relocated to New York City to be a staff attorney with the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. For eight years, OuYang worked on voting rights challenges and represented victims of race discrimination, hate crimes, and police brutality. In 2000, President Clinton appointed OuYang to serve as special assistant to Commissioner Yvonne Lee at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. She conducted research, writing, and analysis on national civil rights issues including voting rights for hearings convened in Florida to investigate voting irregularities in the historic 2000 presidential election debacle.
For 20 years and continuing, OuYang has taught at Columbia University and New York University. Her courses include a pre-law comparative course involving historical and current constitutional challenges facing African, Latino, and Asian American communities; a course examining the impact of post-911 government policies on immigrants; and courses on managing diversity/inclusion and gender issues in the workforce.
OuYang has served as a consultant to a range of organizations. With The New York Immigration Coalition and the Bar Association of the City of New York, OuYang conducted pro-bono legal clinics across the city for Arabs, Muslims, and South Asians regarding the requirements of the federal government’s post-911 special registration program. She advised OCA on its production of Voices of Healing, a book on 9-11 Asian American victims, heroes, survivors, and community response. For eight years, OuYang coordinated The Fund for New Citizens, a million dollar funding collaborative at The New York Community Trust that supports organizations helping immigrants integrate into the political, economic, and social fabric of New York City. With MinKwon Center for Community Action, OuYang organized a multi-racial, ad hoc citywide coalition to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. In summer 2016, with the New York Immigrant Action Fund, a 501(c)(4) organization that promotes pro-immigrant candidates, she worked to re-elect Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez as the Democratic Candidate for Congressional District 7. And as a consultant to APA VOICE (Voting and Organizing to Increase Civic Engagement) OuYang has organized four candidates’ forums: Queens District Attorney; New York State Assembly District 65, Senate District 16, and City Council District 20.
OuYang is currently a member of and consultant to OCA-NY Asian Pacific American Advocates, a non-profit volunteer civil rights organization promoting and defending the political, economic, and cultural rights of Asian Americans. OCA-NY’s Hate Crimes Prevention Art Project is now in its 15th year, a Project OuYang founded and supervises. In 2021, Ms. OuYang is also the coordinator of APA VOICE’s Redistricting Task Force, a coalition of 15 leading APA civic engagement groups in New York City.
OuYang has been involved in the past three decennial censuses. For the 2020 Census, OuYang was a consultant to the New York Immigration Coalition from January 2018 to March 2019. In this capacity, Ms. OuYang served as the coordinator of New York Counts 2020, to create and grow the first statewide coalition seeking a fair and accurate census count. This coalition led the advocacy efforts to successfully remove the citizenship question from the 2020 Census and obtain $40 million from New York State and New York City for census outreach. In 2019, OuYang, as a census trainer for APIA VOTE, a national, non-partisan civic engagement organization, conducted census trainings for APA communities in Florida, California, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona, and Minnesota. In 2020, OuYang served as a census consultant to APA VOICE Complete Count Committee and Museum of Chinese in America.
OuYang’s past civic involvements include being Vice-Chair of the New York State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights; President of OCA-NY Asian Pacific American Advocates; a mentor with Legal Outreach, an organization that helps inner city youth debate and prepare for college; and a board member of Chinese Mountain Club of New York.
Included among the many awards OuYang received are the American Dreamer Award for Ambassadorship by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Columbia University Outstanding Teaching Award (Honorary Mention), New York University Martin Luther King, Jr. Faculty Award, and the New York University College of Arts and Science Outstanding Teaching Award. Her cases and advocacy have been covered widely in The New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press, major broadcast stations, and ethnic media.
OuYang received a B.A. from University of Michigan and a J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law.