Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles

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Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA)
Motto Educating, Organizing, Advocating
Formation 1993
  • 2533 West 3rd Street, Suite 101, Los Angeles, California 90057

The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles also known, as CHIRLA is a Los Angeles county-based organization focusing on immigrant rights. While the organization did evolve from a local level, it is now recognized at a national level. The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles helps in creating a space for new immigrants that are adapting to their environment, creates a community, helps them find job opportunities as well as access services while also creating dialogue that challenges prejudice and discrimination in reference to immigration. The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles also has aided in passing new laws and policies to benefit the immigrant community regardless of documented status.[1]


The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles is considered to be one of Los Angeles' oldest organizations advocating for immigrant rights. In 1986, the creation of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles or CHIRLA, was funded by the Ford Foundation in efforts to help educate immigrants about the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. The Ford Foundation also had hopes of addressing anti-immigrant sentiment that was evolving within the context of immigration debate in the United States of America.[2] Following the funding from the Ford Foundation, CHIRLA was to help undocumented immigrants about the pathway to citizenship while also informing immigrants about their workers' right in the labor force.[1]

CHIRLA was founded in 1986 as a result of the Immigration Reform and Control Act. Since its founding, CHIRLA has evolved in three major components. When being founded, the organization focused on issues such as providing immigrants the resources to leadership development, organizing and mobilizing. Another component CHIRLA focused on was focusing on its own programs and committees while also trying to create other organizations that were interested on similar issues as CHIRLA. Resulting in a transition from focusing on immigrant issues at a local level to immigrant issues at a national level. This focus helped the organization with challenging laws that limited workers' rights at a local and national level. Present day, CHIRLA works with different organization around the nation in hopes of influencing future federal legislation.[1]

Following the passage of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, representatives from Central American Resource Center (CARECEN), Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) now known as Asian Americans Advancing Justice,[3] Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice, and Dolores Mission and other voluntary agencies and local legal service coalitions formed a steering committee to coordinate the efforts of charities, legal service organizations, and advocacy organizations. The steering committee served the purpose of different organizations and coalitions collectively working towards issues surrounding the immigrant community. The steering committee would also provided more services to serve as many migrants as possible in Los Angeles.[4] By 1991, CHIRLA acted on its mission of "advance the human and civil rights of immigrants and refugees and to foster an environment of positive human and community relations in our society." Three years later, CHIRLA had brought together about eighty members of the coalition in order to represent and address different issues within the immigrant community.[1]

With the sponsorship of United Way, CHIRLA was formed. In 1993, it was granted 501(c)(3) non-profit status.[1]

In the same year, faced with major changes to laws pertaining to unauthorized immigrants from California Proposition 187, CHIRLA spearheaded public awareness campaigns to dispel myths and inform the immigrant community. 287(g) Enforcement Applies to All Crimes: Officials working under 287(g) programs are allowed to refer people to ICE for any violation of the law. The 287(g) program makes no distinction between people who have committed serious felonies and people who have committed non-violent low level misdemeanor crimes. In San Bernardino County, officers have begun to report people who were trying to serve their community service time for misdemeanor crimes to ICE. This means that they are effectively punishing people for trying to rectify the minor crimes they may have committed, and who are cooperating with the system other than trespass and ID theft. Because an undocumented individual might be deported for any small or petty crime, there is increased fear of law enforcement and a disincentive for immigrants to collaborate with or contact local law enforcement to report crimes. Problems Guaranteeing Rights under 287(g) Agreements: Because immigration detainees are guaranteed state-provided legal representation, the vast majority of detainees have some means by which to effectively defend themselves. Immigration detainees have fewer rights than prisoners in the criminal justice system because immigration is considered a civil offense, as it should be. Many detainees effectively relinquish their rights by signing voluntary deportation orders, the implications of which many do not fully understand. In addition, local law enforcement officers and prison officials are trained in the complexities of immigration law. Officers that are cross-deputized under the 287(g) program only have to undergo four weeks of training which is adequate. Edited by: Cynthia Buiza, CHIRLA Director of Policy and Advocacy Prepared by: Elizabeth Venable, CHIRLA Policy Assistant Published: November 2008 Coalition for

Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA), effective September 30, 1996, added Section 287(g), performance of immigration officer functions by state officers and employees, to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). This authorizes the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies, permitting designated officers to perform immigration law enforcement functions, pursuant to a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), provided that the local law enforcement officers receive appropriate training and function under the supervision of sworn U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers.

The cross-designation between ICE and state and local patrol officers, detectives, investigators and correctional officers working in conjunction with ICE allows these local and state officers: necessary resources and latitude to pursue investigations relating to violent crimes, human smuggling, gang/organized crime activity, sexual-related offenses, narcotics smuggling and money laundering; and increased resources and support in more remote geographical locations.


CHIRLA is led by a seven-person board.[5]


Organizing and Mobilizing

During the late 1980s, CHIRLA's activities focused on three major areas: education, political advocacy, and community organization. At this time, majority of their advocacy work was centered around helping undocumented immigrants fill out their applications that would grant them a form of legal status through the amnesty provision of the Immigration Reform and Control Act.[1] Following a couple of years, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles created a national hotline designed to connect immigrants (who had just been granted legal status) to resources such as legal aid, health, education and welfare services.[1]

Community organizational campaigns include efforts to organize domestic workers, day laborers, and undocumented students. In 1988, CHIRLA initiated to expand their services to household workers through their Immigrant Women's Taskforce. At the same time, the coalition advocated for the opening of day labor centers in the City of Los Angeles, which eventually lead to the opening of the Harbor City Job Center a year later. The focus on these two committees created a shift in the organization's focus. While CHIRLA had been focusing on the advocacy of the undocumented individual, it then shifted to worker's rights, and advocating for low-wage workers in the city of Los Angeles. CHIRLA continues to advocate and organize for the Day Laborer, Household Worker and Street Vendor Committees.[1] In 2004, The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, in collaboration with the San Francisco Bay Area Domestic Worker Coalition and the Los Angeles Pilipino Workers formed the California Domestic Workers' Coalition. The Coalition then introduced Assembly Bill 2536, which upheld domestic workers being compensated for overtime and fined employers who failed to comply with this provision. The bill passed in both houses and was vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.[6]

CHIRLA has worked with many different organizations and advocacy networks that targeted specific immigrant rights issues. One of the coalitions, CHIRLA has worked with is the Coalition of Garment Worker Advocates (CGWA). The goal of the Coalition of Garment Worker Advocates was to acknowledge labor law violations in relationship to the Los Angeles garment industry. During the year 2001 came the coalition's creation of the Garment Worker Center. The center provided a space for garment workers to unite and create alternatives to better working conditions.[1]

The coalition has also been an advocate for undocumented student access to higher education at a state level. CHIRLA established many clubs in local Los Angeles high schools in order to provide support and resources to undocumented students. The coalition also contributed to the campaign for undocumented students and their accessibility to in-state tuition while attending California's public higher education insitutiitions. CHIRLA was one of the advocacy groups that advocated alongside Assembly member Marco Firebaugh's effort to pass Assembly Bill 540, a California bill which would allow undocumented students in-state tuition. Undocumented students were to have lived in California for at least three years while also graduating high school from an accredited California high school.[1] In 2003, CHIRLA initiated the California Dream Network which would help connect immigrant students groups to federal legislation that would help granting legal status to undocumented students.[7]

Education is carried out through seminars, office visits, telephone calls, trainings, information fairs, townhall meetings, and media outreach. CHIRLA, along with the production company Cinético Productions, produced the informational DVD Know Your Rights![8]

Political advocacy centers around pressuring lawmakers to pass laws "that promote and protect the human and civil rights of immigrants."[9]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Milkman Ruth; Joshua Bloom; Victor Narro. Working for Justice: The L.A. Model of Organizing and Advocacy. Cornell University Press. 
  2. "Refugees & Migrants: Problems and Program Responses". 
  3. "History". 
  4. Bibler Coutin, Susan (November 1999). "Advocating for Immigrants' Rights: An Interview with Susan Alva". Political and Legal Anthropology Review 1. Vol. 22, No. 2 pp. 110-119. 
  5. "Our Board". CHIRLA website. CHIRLA. 2006. Retrieved 2007-08-20. 
  6. Shaker, Preeti (Spring 2007). "Home Is Where the Work Is: The Color of Domestic Labor". Race, Poverty & the Environment Vol. 14, No. 1, Just Jobs? Organizing for Economic Justice. 
  7. The proposed federal Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act would allow undocumented students to legalize their status via higher education or in the armed forces.
  8. "CHIRLA's Know Your Rights DVD". CHIRLA website. CHIRLA. 2006. Archived from the original on 2007-08-31. Retrieved 2007-08-20. 
  9. "Advocacy and Policy". CHIRLA website. CHIRLA. 2006. Archived from the original on 2007-07-02. Retrieved 2007-08-20.