Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Announces Arely Westley as the 2024 Human Rights Award Laureate

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 31, 2024Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights today announced Arely Westley, an LGBTQ+ and immigrant rights activist, as the recipient of its 41st annual RFK Human Rights Award. A ceremony honoring Westley is scheduled for the first week of June in Washington, D.C.

A longtime advocate for immigrant, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ communities, Westley works with numerous organizations in New Orleans to uplift LGBTQ+ youth, stop abuses in ICE detention facilities, and expand access to immigrant support services. Recognized for her tireless efforts to combat injustice, Westley joins a distinguished group of more than 50 defenders and organizations honored throughout the Award’s history.

“From her anti-detention work to her support of LGBTQ+ youth, Arely is a true force for social justice,” Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights said. “The difference between a victim and a hero is activism with a loving heart. Arely has used her personal experiences to fuel her advocacy and build a better, more just world. We are honored to recognize her efforts and continue working alongside her.”

Westley, who identifies as a trans-Latinx woman, moved to Louisiana from Honduras at a young age. During her youth, she was impacted by both the criminal justice and immigration systems, charged with low-level drug and illegal re-entry charges. She said these experiences deepened her passion for advocacy, leading her to become a fierce proponent for ending the criminalization of LGBTQ+ youth. She currently continues that work as the Campaign Director at BreakOUT!, an organization that seeks to empower Black and Latinx transgender and gender non-conforming youth through leadership development programs.

Driven by her firsthand knowledge of abuses within ICE detention facilities, Westley is also a dedicated immigration advocate. In 2022, she was detained at the Central Louisiana ICE Processing Center (formally known as the LaSalle Immigration Detention Facility) in Jena, Louisiana, while trying to receive proper health care. During her detention, she suffered egregious human rights violations and was held in solitary confinement for identifying as a transgender woman.

Since her release, Westley has played a crucial role in multiple organizations supporting immigrants’ rights. She is a vital member of the Southeast Dignity Not Detention Coalition (SDND), a group of nonprofits and grassroots organizations committed to advancing immigrants’ rights through legal and community support services. Through SDND, Westley has led multiple shutdown campaigns, calling for the closure of ICE detention facilities, such as Winn Correctional Center, that have a documented history of abuse. Westley also works with a New Orleans-based organization called Home is Here NOLA to provide housing, legal aid, and community support to newly arrived immigrants. In addition, she serves as a board member for the Southeast Immigrant Rights Network and Asheboro Latinxs Services.

“I feel honored to accept this award on behalf of my trans community, standing on the shoulders of our ancestors, who were Indigenous to these lands now known as the Americas, where today my trans Latina sisters and I are vilified, caged, and abused. But these systems of dehumanizing greed have grossly underestimated us. We are the flowering buds whose deep roots break through the concrete that those in power deign to walk all over, but our beauty, love and brilliance cannot be and we will not be denied,” Westley said. “This award not only belongs to me but to all my trans sisters who in one way or another are in the struggle and resistance to live, as well as my immigrant community that is being targeted and trampled, day by day.”

The RFK Human Rights Award honors champions of social justice who stand up to oppression in the nonviolent pursuit of human rights. Honorees receive a cash prize and ongoing support for their work through RFK Human Rights campaigns and mobilization, strategic litigation, training and capacity-building, and more.

To learn more about this year’s Human Rights Award laureates, visit

About Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights:

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that has worked to realize Robert F. Kennedy’s dream of a more just and peaceful world since 1968. In partnership with local activists, we advocate for key human rights issues— championing change makers and pursuing strategic litigation at home and around the world. And to ensure change that lasts, we foster a social-good approach to business and investment and educate millions of students about human rights and social justice. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, and Twitter: @RFKHumanRights.