Protecting Immigrant Rights in the Central Valley
The Central Valley Immigrant Integration Collaborative (CVIIC) and partner organizations in the region are focused on protecting immigrant rights. Immigrants in the Central Valley constitute an important pillar of our society, culture and economy. It is in the best interests of our local communities to ensure that immigrant families have access to the American Dream so that they may continue to contribute to the prosperity of our nation.
There are close to 900,000 immigrants in the Central Valley. In addition, there are almost half a million children with at least one immigrant parent. This is the target population of our regional network.
The model that has been adopted by CVIIC to promote and protect immigrant rights has been consistent over the years and involves the following elements:
The delivery of legal services via workshops in rural and urban communities is one of the most important contributions that our regional network makes to immigrant families in the region. The legal services workshops organized by collaborative partners have taken place in all counties of the San Joaquin Valley. The services offered have included: naturalization application assistance, DACA (first time and renewal), U Visas, T Visas, VAWA, Asylum, as well as general consultations with immigration attorneys. Services at the workshops are free of charge and, when available, assistance is provided to obtain fee waivers, fee scholarships or low cost application loans.
Partners of our regional network coordinate the scheduling of the workshops via an internal calendar in order to avoid the organization of competing events, request volunteers and plan events in advance.
Since the regional collaborative efforts were begun in 2013, nearly 400 legal services workshops have been held in Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, Stanislaus, San Joaquin and Tulare counties. In addition, legal services providers have served thousands of clients in their respective offices.
Collaboration and Coordination
The regional collaboration that has emerged in the Central Valley is a model based on the coordination of efforts carried out by a still small but growing number of nonprofit legal services providers and a much larger network of non-legal services providers. The non-legal services providers include community based organizations, pro bono attorneys, health care advocates, educational and vocational institutions, media partners, local governments, churches and faith-based organizations, libraries and others interested in promoting the integration of immigrants.
The model of collaboration emerged from a need that was present in 2013, when the Central Valley DACA Collaborative (CVIIC’s predecessor) was established: the existence of an extremely limited number of nonprofit legal services. At that time, there were only 8-9 accredited representatives working for nonprofit legal services providers in the region. A solution was to enhance the potential of the existing legal capacity with the involvement and support of a much larger network of organizations that could provide support, volunteers and other resources. A key element has been the coordination of these efforts.
The legal capacity in the region remains far below what exists in the Bay Area or Los Angeles and is still inadequate to address the needs of Central Valley immigrant families. However, it has improved greatly since 2013 because local organizations (including Education and Leadership Foundation, Central California Legal Services, Centro La Familia, UFW Foundation, CBDIO, CRLA Foundation, The Fresno Center, Catholic Charities of Stockton) have invested in the improvement of their capacity while the region has also benefited from the arrival of new agencies that offer a broader range of services. Among the agencies that have established a presence in the region with legal staff are Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Kids in Need of Defense, ACLU of Northern California, SIREN, California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice and Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Among the many non-legal services partners that have been involved in the regional network are: Fresno Adult School, State Center Adult Education Consortium, Sequoias Adult School Consortium, Consulado de Mexico en Fresno, Radio Bilingue, Univision, Proteus, Jakara Movement, Hmong Innovating Politics, Dolores Huerta Foundation, Faith in the Valley, numerous parishes affiliated with the Catholic Diocese of Fresno, Mi Familia Vota, Fresno County Library, Fresno Unified School District, United Health Centers and many others.
Know Your Rights
Informational and know your rights presentations to community members take place on an ongoing basis. Legal services providers and community based organizations that are part of our network are actively engaged in organizing outreach events in rural and urban communities. Mass media partners, including Univision, Telemundo and Radio Bilingue, assist in the promotion of events by inviting representatives of partner organizations to inform about events, explain relevant policies and address questions raised by the public. Partner organizations also utilize their social media, text messaging campaigns and online accounts to transmit valuable information. For example, CVIIC’s main Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/CviicFresno/) has over 4,700 followers and its text messaging service has over 5,000 subscribers who receive 2-3 informational messages per week, including notifications of legal services workshops and other important events.
Key allies, such as Immigrant Legal Resource Center, ACLU of Northern California and California Immigrant Policy Center, develop informational materials and high quality guides that are shared with the regional partners and the public.
CVIIC and key state and national allies, such as Immigrant Legal Resource Center, California Immigrant Policy Center, California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice (formerly Northern California Rapid Response and Immigrant Defense Network), California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN), have worked together to offer Central Valley-based immigrant serving organizations an ongoing series of capacity building opportunities. The training opportunities are free of charge to representatives of partner organizations and cover a wide range of topics, from immigration law, to changes in state or federal policies, fundraising, communications strategy, and other relevant topics identified as priorities by regional partners. This enables the staff members of partner organizations to be well informed in order to provide high quality services to the public.
Protecting Immigrant Rights and Advocacy
The defense and promotion of immigrant rights necessarily involves advocacy at the local, state and national levels. An objective of CVIIC has been the promotion of immigrant integration measures. In collaboration with partner organizations and coalitions, it has been possible to support multiple initiatives at the state level ranging from AB 60 driver’s licenses to Health for All to the California Immigrant Justice Pipeline Project, as well as federal initiatives related to comprehensive immigration reform, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, among others.
At the local and regional level, CVIIC has worked with the Institute for Local Government to offer local elected officials and community leaders trainings on immigrant integration policies. In the case of the the City of Fresno, CVIIC has been involved in the development of initiatives that include an immigrant integration resolution, the adoption of a resolution declaring Immigrant Heritage Month, the promotion of a legal defense fund and the establishment of an immigration affairs office and an immigrant affairs advisory committee.
Partner organizations that specialize in advocacy, such as California Immigrant Policy Center, FWD.us, Mi Familia Vota, CPEHN, and the California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice, have played vital roles in connecting the regional network to advocacy work.
As part of our advocacy efforts, CVIIC and partner organizations participate in important annual events, including Equity on the Mall, sponsored by the San Joaquin Valley Health Fund, and Immigrant Day, which is led by California Immigrant Policy Center.
State and National Networking to Promote and Protect Immigrant Rights
CVIIC has participated actively in numerous other local, state and national coalitions, networks and campaigns. These relations have been fundamental in bringing additional resources to the Central Valley, to raise awareness at the state and federal levels of work being done in our region, call attention to the needs and interests of the immigrant families residing here, and identify best practices of other organizations dedicated to protecting immigrant rights.
Among the immigration-related networks and campaigns that we are connected to are: New Americans Campaign, FWD.us, Ready California, California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice, Fresno County Legal Defense Fund, California Rapid Response Steering Committee.