The Immigrants’ Rights Program at the ACLU of Northern California uses community education, legislative and policy advocacy, and litigation to end xenophobia, nativism, and white supremacy; to address laws and practices that punish and target individuals for their immigration status, national origin, ethnicity, and race; to build power among people at all levels to increase their influence and ability to create opportunities and benefits for themselves.
The Immigrants' Rights Program works on behalf of immigrant community members who have been excluded, oppressed, and maltreated and for people who have been subjected to multiple systems of oppression or exclusion. Our goal is for the many diverse immigrant communities in California to possess the voice essential to meaningful participation on an individual level and to true freedom and equality on a societal level.
Our immigration detention system locks up hundreds of thousands of immigrants in a cruel and unnecessary system. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the brutal and inhumane conditions faced by detained immigrants across the country. We file litigation and engage in legislative and administrative advocacy that seeks to end immigration detention in California. Hundreds of individuals have been released as a result of our litigation challenging ICE’s failure to provide adequate care to people in their custody.
The immigration system contains an unnecessary and unconstitutional lack of rights that is unheard of in the criminal justice system. No one should be in immigration detention without a constitutionally adequate bond hearing in which the government bears the burden of showing that detention is necessary—to protect against danger to the community or flight risk—and that no alternative release conditions would suffice. As a result of our class action and individual habeas litigation, hundreds of people have been provided bond hearings, won their release, and continued their fight to remain in the United States while connected to their communities of support.
Created in the wake of 9/11, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrests and deports thousands of people from the United States each year. ICE disregards the harms to families, children, and communities imposed by our country’s punitive immigration laws. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) also operates without regard to constitutional standards: engaging in rampant abuses ranging from racial profiling to excessive force. The ACLU works to counteract ICE and CBP’s enforcement practices and violations of civil rights and civil liberties. We’ve sued to stop ICE and CBP from illegally stopping and arresting people; interrogating people without counsel; demanding to search people’s phones, laptops, and electronic devices at airports and borders; and discriminating based on race, ethnicity, and national origin.
ICE relies heavily on state and local criminal legal systems to find the vast majority of individuals it arrests each year and push them into the deportation pipeline. This process heightens the already disproportionate impact upon Black and Brown communities of racist policing and prosecutions. Though California has enacted the strongest laws in the nation to disentangle sheriffs offices and police departments from immigration enforcement, the ACLU engages in legislative and administrative advocacy to end this cooperation.
ICE and other agencies within the Department of Homeland Security deploy powerful and highly-invasive surveillance tools in order to find, arrest, and deport people throughout the United States. Operating with little transparency and oversight, ICE and CBP routinely access detailed location information, facial recognition technology, and other databases of sensitive personal information collected by government agencies and private companies. Combined, this information provides an ever-evolving portrait of a person’s most intimate relationships and activities. The ACLU files FOIA and public records requests and litigation to reveal these agencies’ use of surveillance technology and data-sharing agreements with governmental agencies. Through legislative and administrative advocacy, the ACLU pushes for reforms to maintain the privacy and safety of immigrant communities.