Director, National Affairs
Maritza Perez is the Director of the Office of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance in Washington, DC where she leads the organization’s federal legislative agenda and strategy to end the drug war. Previously, Maritza was a Senior Policy Analyst for Criminal Justice Reform at the Center for American Progress (CAP) where her portfolio included marijuana policy, policing, and prison and sentencing reform. Prior to joining CAP, Maritza was a Legislative Staff Attorney at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). She began her legal career at MALDEF as a Soros Justice Fellow, advocating for policies to end mass incarceration. Her portfolio at MALDEF expanded to include immigration policy, employment rights, education access, and judicial nominations.
Maritza earned her J.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law where she received the highest distinction for her pro bono work. In law school, Maritza worked at the ACLU of Northern California and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund where she conducted legal research on police and prison reform. She participated in several student clinics, including Berkeley Law’s Death Penalty Clinic, where she conducted mitigation research to remove her client from death row; the Post-Conviction Advocacy Project, where she successfully helped her incarcerated client gain parole; and the Immigration Clinic of the East Bay Community Law Center, where she assisted clients to apply for DACA and win relief from deportation. Through the HBA-DC Judicial Internship Program, she served as a judicial clerk to Judge Marisa J. Demeo of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.
Before attending law school, Maritza joined Teach For America and was a fourth-grade teacher in New Orleans. A native Nevadan, she received her B.A. from the University of Nevada, Reno with academic honors, graduating with double majors in Journalism and Spanish and double minors in Political Science and Economic Policy. As an undergraduate, she participated in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) Internship Program and worked in the Office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Washington, DC where she conducted research on policy issues affecting Latinos.
Maritza is passionate about public service and giving back to her community. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Hispanic Bar Association of the District of Columbia (HBA-DC) and the National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project (NIWAP) at American University Washington College of Law. In 2019, Maritza was named one of the Hispanic National Bar Association's Top Lawyers Under 40 in recognition of her outstanding record of public service and professional excellence. Maritza is an alumna of New Leaders Council (Oakland), Justice Policy Network, The Opportunity Agenda’s Communications Institute, Women’s Media Center Progressive Women's Voices media and leadership training program, and the Harvard Kennedy School Executive Education Program for leaders of social justice movements.
A criminal justice policy expert, Maritza has been featured in various media outlets including The Washington Post, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, Politico, Roll Call, The Boston Globe, CNN, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, The Takeaway, Latino USA, and more. She is licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia and in the state of California.