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The American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties (ACLU-SDIC) is a non-profit organization that works to protect and advance civil rights and civil liberties for all people in the region. The ACLU does this through public education, litigation, and legislative advocacy.

The ACLU has a long trajectory of historical wins for the people and communities of San Diego and Imperial Counties. In June of 2023, the ACLU successfully negotiated a settlement with the San Diego County Sheriff's Department to improve conditions in the county's jails. The settlement includes new policies and procedures to protect the health and safety of incarcerated people.

The ACLU is also tenaciously working to protect the rights of immigrants in San Diego and Imperial Counties. In May of 2023, the ACLU challenged a new asylum ban that would make it more difficult for people fleeing persecution to seek refuge in the United States. 

The story of the ACLU-SDIC is replete with major struggles to assert immigrants’ rights in the region. ACLU-SDIC works to ensure the fundamental protections of due process and equal protection embodied in our Constitution and Bill of Rights apply to every person, regardless of immigration status. They litigate, advocate, educate, organize and agitate to protect immigrants from unconstitutional, discriminatory actions by the federal government and local municipalities and agencies. They hold government agencies accountable for the unjust and inhumane treatment of undocumented immigrants in their custody. They fight to protect the rights of people seeking asylum and to ensure them basic humanitarian assistance. They partner with community and faith-based organizations to optimize our collective capacities to defend immigrant communities. They challenge unlawful immigration enforcement policies and practices, and they champion legislation to protect people’s civil rights for the benefit of all Californians.

As part of the Border Humanity Project, ACLU-SDIC is working in coalition to rebuild asylum and demand an end to indiscriminate immigration detention and abuses at the border. The Border Humanity Project is made up of the ACLU, The ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, the ACLU of Arizona, the ACLU of New Mexico and the ACLU of Texas, and fights for transparency, accountability and the humane treatment of people. 

In addition to the Border Humanity Project work, ACLU-SDIC works in coalition with the San Diego Rapid Response Network and California Welcoming Taskforce to advocate and ensure migrant communities are treated with dignity and respect as they come into the region.

In Imperial Valley, the ACLU offers culturally competent, linguistically sensitive workshops, training, and other resources to help people understand their rights. We had a chance to speak to Marylin Carrillo, who is the Community Liaison for Imperial County. 

Of her work in the community of Imperial County, Marylin says: 

Imperial County has a diverse range of community needs. A consistent issue we have seen has been a lack of awareness and understanding of individuals’ legal rights. In response, we have dedicated our efforts to prioritizing community education on civil rights. 

Our goal is to foster community empowerment through our comprehensive Know Your Rights (KYR) trainings and presentations. We provide KYR materials around immigration, LGBTQ rights, students’ rights and other civil liberties. 

Next year we plan on adding a community presentation on the California Healthy Youth Act (CHYA).  Our youth must understand how to take care of their bodies. I’ve often had youth express concern that they are not getting the comprehensive sex education CHYA requires. This includes inclusive education around LGBTQ issues, sexual health and healthy relationships. 

ACLU-SDIC is also currently growing our KYR Immigrants’ Rights Ambassadors Program. This program allows community leaders to gain in-depth knowledge on KYR topics and provide support to community members looking for information about their rights. 

We are pleased that we have been able to extend our outreach efforts throughout Imperial County, as we work to build relationships and share information further into the north end of the county. We will continue to look for ways to support our Imperial Valley community. 

As of 2020, Imperial County has a population of nearly 200,000 people – of those, over 50% are Hispanic or Latinx. More than 74% of the population speaks Spanish at home. Like many rural communities, Imperial County is a study in duality – it is a region of extraordinary agricultural resources, but many of its residents struggle to meet their basic needs. Indeed, the median household income is $46,354, with a poverty rate over 24%.

Planned Parenthood Action Fund of the Pacific Southwest is proud to work closely and alongside organizations like the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties – together, we fight to ensure that Imperial Valley is a more just and equitable place for all, and that all people have the opportunity to thrive, the right to bodily autonomy, the right to migrate, and the right to a path to a healthy and meaningful life. 

To learn more about the ACLU San Diego & Imperial Counties, visit aclu-sdic.org.


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