Fighting for Change

We work with community leaders to challenge the status quo and make real change in this country.

We advance policies at all levels of government that invest in immigrants and refugees. That means pushing civil rights, workers’ rights, economic equity and environmental justice for everyone.

Our Policy Priorities

  • Win equal protection for immigrants
  • Challenge anti-immigrant legislation
  • Reduce immigration enforcement
  • Invest in immigrant communities


At the federal level, CHIRLA advocates for humane, comprehensive and inclusive immigration reform. We ensure federal policies protect immigrants, challenge anti-immigrant legislation, work to reduce immigration enforcement, and seek investment in immigrant communities.


CHIRLA aims to make California a pro-immigrant model for the rest of the nation. We advance state laws and budget proposals that acknowledge immigrant contributions, improve integration, reform the criminal justice system, incorporate due process for everyone, rebuild trust between law enforcement and immigrants, and increase education opportunities for immigrants.


CHIRLA’s regional work advances city and county policies that protect immigrant rights, encourage integration, improve economic opportunities and build civic engagement. At this level, we also work to protect our community by disentangling local police from federal immigration enforcers.


Our Work National, State & Local Policy


Immigrants at the National Level

About 44 million immigrants live and work in the United States, according to the Pew Research Center. That’s about 13.5 percent of the U.S. population. Of them, 19.8 million are naturalized citizens; 11.9 million are Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs); and 2.1 million have temporary legal status, including 689,800 with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and 300,000 with Temporary Protection Status (TPS).

About 11 million immigrants are undocumented, and many have both deep roots in the community and citizen family members. For example, 16.7 million people in the country have at least one undocumented family member; 8 million U.S. citizens have at least one undocumented family member, and 5.9 million citizen children live with at least one undocumented family member.

CHIRLA’s goals are:

  • A just and humane immigration system that leads to permanent legal status, united families, and worker protections
  • Protection of the human and civil rights of immigrant families
  • Less funding to deport immigrants and separate families
  • More oversight of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)


Immigrants at the State Level

About 10.7 million immigrants live in California, the most in the nation at 27.3 percent of the population. Of those, 5.3 million are naturalized citizens, 2.2 million are legal permanent residents, and nearly 2.5 million are undocumented. Of the undocumented, 87 percent have been in the country five years or more. The Golden State is also home to the most people with DACA in the nation, at nearly 223,000, and the most people with TPS. Forty-seven percent of California’s children live with an immigrant parent, and 16 percent of those parents are undocumented, while 81 percent of their children are citizens.

Immigrants are critical to the economies of California and the United States. Nationally in 2014, they paid $223.6 billion in federal taxes, including $123.7 billion in Social Security and $32.9 billion in Medicare. Undocumented immigrants pay into Medicare and Social Security but do not get the benefit. Each year, they contribute $13 billion into the Social Security retirement trust fund, but claim only $1 billion.

Immigrants help make California the fifth largest economy in the world. Though they make up 27 percent of the population, they are 35 percent of its employees. Immigrant-owned firms employ 1,460,099 Californians, and they generated $20.2 billion in 2014. In 2007-2011, immigrants founded 45 percent of all new California businesses, and currently, 219,857 of those entrepreneurs are undocumented. Of California’s working-age population, 74.2 percent are immigrant while only 45.5 percent are native-born.

California’s well-being is tied to the success of its immigrants. Of the $38.7 billion that immigrants earned in California in 2016, $1.6 billion went to state and local taxes, $2.7 billion went to federal taxes, and the remaining $34.3 billion represented their spending power in the state.

In light of Congressional refusal to enact a humane immigration reform plan, CHIRLA has worked to make California a model and pro-immigrant state. We are seeking to strengthen civil protections and improve the opportunities for immigrant families to help to integrate them into its economy and culture. Our work also intersects with ro create smart and compassionate judicial system.  CHIRLA has sought to mitigate the impact of the 1996 immigration law and criminalization of immigrant communities by reforming California’s penal code to utilize resources to reform and create a smart system and provide a path to redemption.  Last year, one of the most legislative successful years as 13 of CHIRLA’s sponsored bills made it to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk, and he signed 9 into law.


Immigrants at the Local Level

Los Angeles County is the largest county in the nation, with over 10 million people of whom 3.6 million are immigrants. About 834,600 are undocumted, and 80 percent have lived in the county more than 10 years. Immigrants are 44 percent of the county’s labor force.  They represent huge purchasing power and pay billions in county taxes. 

CHIRLA is proud to work with coalition partners and achieve  policy wins at the City and County levels. 

Proud victories: 

  • In 2012, worked with the Los Angeles Police Department to issue Special Order 7, which provides guidelines to officers to use their prosecutorial discretion when not to impound a vehicle from an unlicensed driver.  It was implemented in 2014 due to litigation where the State Appeals Court ruled in favor of Special Order 7. 
  • In 2013, worked with then President of the Los Angeles City Council President, Eric Garcetti to re-established the Los Angeles Office of Immigrant Affairs 
  • In 2015, After 10 years of the Board first vote to participate in the 287g program, the Board terminated it
  • In 2017, Los Angeles City, County, and philanthropic partnered to create a pilot program dubbed, the Justice Fund to fund legal service providers to provide legal representation to a limited number of immigrants residing in the County who were in detention centers or in deportation proceedings. 
  • In 2018, advocates a budget augmentation for the Public Defender Office to hire immigration attorneys to uphold the Padilla vs. Kentucky case

Despite our victorie and  contributions of immigrants, the State of Immigrants continues to lag in economic mobility, civic engagement, and educational attainment mostly due to lack of significant investment and policies to integrate them in our county. 

CHIRLA will continue to work to urge our local governments  to create policies aimed at welcoming and embracing immigrants,  increase civic participation and equitable representation,  create economic opportunities, and accomplish safety for all.

Biden's Executive Orders

On January 20, 2021, just hours after his inauguration, President Biden signed several executive orders addressing our country's various crises. Among them were several that affect immigration. In the weeks since Biden has signed other orders that affect immigrants. Below is a summary of the most important ones, by date and topic: 

DACA and Partual Status


Biden moved to preserve and fortify protections for Dreamers

  • Signed a presidential memo directing the secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the attorney general, to do everything under the law to protect immigrants brought here as children 
  • Called on Congress to pass legislation providing permanent status and a path to citizenship for them


Biden signed a presidential memo extending deferred enforced departure (DED) for Liberians

  • Extended DED and work permits for Liberians until 6/30/2022 
  • Directed DHS to ensure USCIS eases applications and processing for those applying for residency through the Liberian Relief and Fairness Act

Family Migration


Department of Justice terminated the memo from former Attorney General Jeff Sessions that dictated "zero tolerance"


Biden signed an executive order to systematically reverse Trump's family separation policies

  • Creates a task force to reunite children with their families, chaired by DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and staffed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary designate for Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, and Attorney General designate Merrick Garland, among others. Goals:
    • Identify all children separated from their families by Trump
    • Option to reunite families, including other members, in the U.S. 
    • Identify services families will need going forward, including counseling and therapy
    • Consult with stakeholders, including families and non-governmental organizations
    • Report to the President after four months

Refugees/ Asylees


Biden signed an executive order to rebuild the asylum system

  • It set out a three-part plan to shore up asylum that takes into account:
    • Addressing instability in countries of origin that leads to the persecution at the root of mass migration
    • Working with regional partners, including foreign governments and human rights organizations, to set up regional, safe asylum processing without refugee camps in third countries 
    • Reviewing the Migrant Protection Protocols (otherwise known as the Remain-in-Mexico policy) and the border expulsions that occurred under the guise of protecting the country from COVID-19
      • Immediately stop fast-track asylum denial through Prompt Asylum Claim Review (PACR) and Humanitarian Asylum Review Process (HARP)
      • Review and possibly end third-country agreements with El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras that forced asylum seekers to first apply and be denied in neighboring countries before applying in the U.S.
    • Review asylum eligibility rules
      • Special focus on “membership in a particular social group”, including victims of gangs and domestic violence that the Trump administration disqualified for asylum
      • Explore new parole possibilities
      • Reinstate family reunification programs such as Central American Minors (CAM)
    • Review expedited removal policy
      • Prompt review of policy that signaled expedited removal for undocumented immigrants arrested anywhere in the country who could not prove a two-year presence
    • Revocation of executive orders creating various anti-asylum


Signed an executive action reversing the Muslim ban 

  • Order included repeal of Proclamations 9645 and 9983
  • Instructed the State Department to restart visa processing for affected countries
  • Ordered the State Department to develop a proposal restoring fairness and healing the harms of the bans, especially for people denied immigrant visas or awaiting waivers
  • Directed a review of "extreme vetting"
  • Ordered better information sharing with foreign governments



Biden repealed Trump interior enforcement executive orders

  • Revoked order that required extreme immigration enforcement across the nation, without priorities
  • DHS and other agencies will now set immigration enforcement policies in line with our values and will conduct the following:
    • Department-wide review of existing practices, completed by the beginning of May
    • Pending review completion, prioritize enforcement for the following groups effective 2/1/2021:
      • People engaged or suspected of terrorism or espionage, or who are a threat to national security 
      • People arrested at U.S. ports of entry while trying to enter the United States without papers on or after 11/1/2020, or who were not in the United States before 11/1/2020
      • People convicted of aggravated felonies, in jail or state/federal prison, released on or after 1/20/2021, and who pose a threat to public safety 
      • People without papers not included in these priorities may still be arrested/detained 
    • Pending completion of the review, but effective 1/22/2021, DHS must pause deportations of people with a final order of removal for 100 days. This moratorium excludes the following:
      • People engaged or suspected of terrorism or espionage, or who are a threat to national security, according to a written finding by the director of ICE
      • People not in the United States before 11/1/2020
      • People who waived any right to stay in the country, provided they knew the consequences and had meaningful access counsel 
      • People whom the acting director of ICE, in consultation with the Office of theGeneral Counsel, determines individually to require deportation 
    • The ICE acting director shall issue additional guidance on moratorium implementation no later than 2/1/2021

Border Issues


Biden signed a proclamation stopping border wall construction 

  • Immediately ended the national emergency declaration used as a pretext to justify funding diversions for the wall
  • Paused wall construction projects to allow review of funding and contracts, and to determine the best way to redirect diverted funds



Biden signed executive orders reversing Trump’s effort to leave undocumented immigrants out of the census count

  • Revoked Trump orders unlawfully excluding non-citizens from the census and from apportionment of congressional representatives

Our Work at the State level

The COVID-19 pandemic uniquely tested our community's resilience.  The disease does not discriminate, but it does hurt immigrants and communities of color more, because they tend to have underlying health conditions that worsen it and tend to work in industries that do not allow social distancing. They have also lost work hours and jobs to the pandemic.

To respond to this emergency, CHIRLA launched the Yo Soy California campaign to lift the stories of immigrants affected by COVID-19 and to press the Governor and state representatives to create a relief program for all residents, regardless of immigration status.  We also continued to to push them to strengthen worker protections, reform the criminal justice system, provide more immigration legal services, and expand the California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC) for immigrant working families.

For a complete list of all the legislation that CHIRLA worked on in 2020, CLICK HERE.




AB 1947 Worker protections (Kalra): Gives workers more time to file worker retaliation claims and allows them to seek reimbursement for attorney fees if they win. 

AB 2426 Victims of Crime (Reyes): Clarifies federal and state rules for police agencies to certify U or T visas. Strengthening the certification process allows undocumented victims of crimes and human trafficking to more easily come forward to report them.

For a complete list of all the legislation that CHIRLA worked on in 2020, CLICK HERE.


Disaster Relief Assistance for Immigrants (DRAI): Using the Rapid Response Fund established in 2019, the Department of Social Services allocated $75 million to help 155,000 undocumented immigrants and their families excluded from federal COVID-19 relief. 

Immigration Services Funding (One California Program): Maintained budget of $65 million and an additional $10 Million ongoing for Community College Immigrant Legal Services to be administered by One California Grantees, including CHIRLA. 

Emergency Funding for immigrant students:  $15 million in one-time emergency grants for immigrant students. This funding built upon CHIRLA funding victories from 2019. 

Dreamer Resource Liaison: $5.8 million ongoing to hire Dream resource liaisons at community colleges, to implement a CHIRLA sponsored bill from 2019.  

For a complete list of all the legislation that CHIRLA worked on in 2020, CLICK HERE.


The following are bills that CHIRLA supported or sponsored and Governor Newsom vetoed. 

AB 826 Emergency Food (Santiago): Would provide one-time emergency food during COVID-19 to all Californians regardless of immigration status, to help curb hunger in their communities. 

SB 1257 Household Workers (Durazo): For the first time, would have included domestic workers in worker protections that require a safe working environment. 

For a complete list of all the legislation that CHIRLA worked on in 2020, CLICK HERE.

State Budget Update

On 1/8/2021, Gov. Gavin Newsom introduced a $227 billion proposed budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year. The budget accounts for stronger revenues than expected resulting from bigger gains for corporations and high-income earners.

We recognize the governor's allocation of $14 billion in COVID-19 relief that can help immigrant communities. However, the economic consequences of the pandemic require the state to reimagine its investments and explore visionary budget investments. Read more about this HERE.


Our Work With Immigrants during covid

To respond to the COVID-19 health crisis, and to recognize the contributions of undocumented immigrants to its economy, California, again leading the nation in social equity, launched an unprecedented assistance program for immigrants affected by the pandemic. With a budget of $75 million, the Disaster Relief Assistance for Immigrants (DRAI) program served more than 150,000 undocumented people, disbursing an average of $500 in direct aid per household.

The member organizations of the California Immigrant Relief Assistance Coalition, as trusted messengers, then administered the program. We also saw a unique opportunity to learn more about the concerns in our community regarding COVID-19. We conducted a wide-ranging survey asking our clients about the circumstances that drove them to apply for DRAI relief funds. The result was Forgotten During COVID, one of the largest surveys of undocumented immigrant needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To download, CLICK HERE
For the most critical findings, CLICK HERE

COVID-19 CHIRLA's Federal, State & Local Response

On 3/11/2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. The ensuing worldwide crisis exposed how systemic weaknesses hamper immigrant access to key services. Government at all levels must respond swiftly, compassionately, and equitably, always accounting for the unique challenges facing immigrants and refugees.

CHIRLA Advocating for All Immigrants

Watch Angelica Salas on Democracy Now (32:00)

Federal COVID-19 Response Timeline

  • Aug 5, 2020

    March 6, 2020

    Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2020 signed into law. President Trump requested only $1.25 billion, but Congress allocated $8.3 billion in emergency funding for federal agency response. CHIRLA took no position.

    • $3.1 billion for Health and Social Services to develop and purchase vaccines and medical supplies
    • Grants created for state, local, and tribal public health agencies and organizations
    • $100 million for community health centers
    • $950 million for state and local preparedness grants
  • Aug 5, 2020

    March 13, 2020

    The federal government declares national emergency and takes the following steps: 

    • Provides $50 billion to states 
    • Gives Secretary of Health and Human Services authority to waive requirements for Medicare, Medicaid, and state children’s health insurance
    • Waives interest payments on student loans
  • Aug 5, 2020

    March 18, 2020

    Families First Coronavirus Response Act allocates $3.47 billion to assist individuals affected by the COVID-19. CHIRLA supports this effort.

    • Establishes federally funded paid sick leave 
    • Requires employers to give workers sick leave
    • Expands unemployment benefits 
    • Increases funding and access to Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)
    • Gives employers and the self-employed tax credits to cover paid sick days
  • Aug 5, 2020

    March 19, 2020

    Senate Republicans introduce the CARES Act, a $1.6 trillion COVID-19 relief package. CHIRLA opposed it.

    • Bailed out industries affected by COVID-19
    • No protections for immigrants workers and families were included
  • Aug 5, 2020

    March 23, 2020

    House Democrats released Take Responsibility for Workers and Family Act, A $2.5 trillion relief package. CHIRLA supports this effort. 

    • Ensures that COVID-19 testing and treatment is available and free for anyone who needs it
    • Provides more economic protections for workers  
    • Increases unemployment benefits
    • Provides $200 billion to states and $15 billion to local governments to mitigate budget deficits
  • Aug 5, 2020

    March 27, 2020

    The Cares Act is signed into law.

    • Mitigates public health and economic impact of COVID-19 pandemic
    • Provides more access to testing and treatment for the uninsured
    • Provides cash payments to families
    • Provides enhanced unemployment security for workers
    • Immigrants are not included. With more than 50 million immigrants, 12 million of whom are undocumented, this exclusion hurts tens of millions of families.
  • Aug 5, 2020

    April 13, 2020

    The addressing extension of employment autorization and immigrants in detention centers during COVID-19.

    • Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) urges the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to utilize its discretionary powers to automatically extend employment authorization for all immigrants whose employment authorization documents (EADs) are about to expire.
    • The FIRST Act was introduced by Senator Booker (NJ) and Congresswoman Jayapal (WA) to release the majority of immigrants in civil detention and limit immigration enforcement during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  • Aug 5, 2020

    April 21, 2020

    The Trump administration prohibits undocumented college students from receiving emergency federal cash assistance for expenses like food, child care and housing.

    • The CARES Act provided $6 billion to higher education institutions The Education Department officials in new guidance directed colleges that only U.S. citizens and some legal permanent residents.
    • Excluding, hundreds of thousands of recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has provided work authorization and deportation protections for undocumented immigrant youth.
  • Aug 5, 2020

    April 23, 2020

    President Trump issued a proclamation suspending  the entry of immigrants into the U.S. for 60 days if:

    • They are outside the U.S. as of the effective date of the Presidential Proclamation [April 23, 2020];
    • Do not have a valid immigrant visa on the effective date; and
    • Do not have an official travel document other than a visa [i.e. transportation letter, boarding foil, or advance parole document] that is valid on the effective date of the Presidential Proclamation or issued on any date thereafter that permits travel to the U.S. to seek entry or admission. 
  • Aug 5, 2020

    April 24, 2020

    Latest COVID-19 rescue package, Supreme Court action and USCIS announcement.


CHIRLA Responds to passage of the CARES Act

Immigrants workers put food on our tables, care for our children and elderly, clean our homes, deliver and stock our groceries, and staff our health care facilities, but the $2 trillion CARES bill excluded them. This is cruel, shortsighted and at odds with any serious attempt to tackle this crisis.


Our Demands On Immigration Enforcement and Detention

  • We call for a complete halt of immigration enforcement during this pandemic. In the same week Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Governor Newsom issued a stay-at-home order, ICE agents executed an enforcement operation. After severe pressure, ICE suggested it would halt most arrests and deportations, focusing only on “public safety risks” and people “subject to mandatory detention based on criminal grounds,” However, no policy directive was issued to provide a uniformity, and detentions instead went up in March. 
  • We call for the release of all immigrants in, and a halt to any expansion of, detention centers. 
  • Immigrants face choosing between their health or fighting for a chance to stay. While immigration courts are closed until May 1 for cases involving people out on bond,, they continue to prosecute cases in detention.
  • CHIRLA joins 70 advocacy organizations in requesting that all immigration courts close during this pandemic.

California's Actions to Combat COVID-19

In the absence of inclusive and equitable relief for immigrants from the federal government during the emergency, CHIRLA joins 60 organizations in urging California to create a state response for immigrant communities including access testing treatment, and economic relief. 

On March 19, Governor Gavin Newsom issued a stay-at-home order for all of California—the first in the nation. That week, the Legislature approved $1 billion in new spending to combat COVID-19.

In Newsom’s order, only essential industries and essential workers can operate. About one-third of California’s essential workforce is immigrant, and fills a crucial gap to help California meet this unprecedented challenge. Immigrants care for the sick and ensure our food security during the COVID-19 crisis. In 2016, almost one in four California doctors had graduated from a foreign medical school, a likely sign they were born elsewhere. Also, 121,141 of our nurses (36 percent) are foreign-born. Of the state’s nursing assistants, home health aides and psychiatric workers, 90,217 (44 percent) are foreign-born.

Sean Tan member of the California Dream Network, CHIRLA’s college state-wide youth program, to participate in She the People-Congressional Women of Color Town Hall focused on COVID-19 Relief in Congress. Sean spoke about his own experience, his concerns and asked Rep. Chu a question. Watch the video here (40 min mark).


Los Angeles City and County Actions to Combat COVID-19

On March 19, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and Mayor Eric Garcetti issued  a Safer at Home order that required residents to shelter in place. Since March 4, Garcetti has issued 13 COVID-19 orders, including an emergency declaration, to detail what residents can do and how city workers should respond. The City Council approved $20 million in reserve funds to respond to COVID-19 and activated the Disaster Service Worker program.

In the absence of inclusive and equitable COVID-19 relief from the federal government for immigrants, a coalition of 70 organizations, including CHIRLA, urged the city and county to create a plan to prevent mass evictions, expand county health programs, help those who do not qualify for federal aid, and work with law enforcers to keep from turning immigrants over to ICE. 

For the moment, here are the most important city actions:

COVID-19 testing In Los Angeles is free for everyone, though it is currently limited to people showing symptoms or those who can’t work because they’ve been exposed to an infected person. Also, there is priority for the elderly and those with underlying illnesses, and first responders or essential workers. People can apply through a diagnostic portal to determine eligibility. City officials are working to increase capacity for more testing.

A local moratorium on evictions is in place through Garcetti’s emergency order of March 15, which expressly barred landlords from evicting tenants who experience the following:

  • Reduced hours or loss of income because of workplace closure
  • Loss of income or child care costs because of school closures
  • Health care bills because a tenant or a member of the tenant’s household has COVID-19
  • Reasonable costs stemming from government emergency measures
  • CHIRLA worked with The City and Los Angeles County in the approval of separate measures to create a rental assistance program and expand eviction protections. These programs are likely to be implemented in May, 2020.