This year was a banner year for California’s immigrant community. With over a dozen legislative wins at the state and local levels, immigrants and their supporters most notably passed the TRUST act, the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, and driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. These new laws will prevent hard-working immigrants from being swept up in the deportation crisis, provide overtime pay to immigrant caregivers, and allow immigrants to drive safely to and from work. They are lessons in the power of community organizing – and in working with marginalized communities to build power for policy change.
It took persistence and an unwavering belief in community power to get to this point. Remember that the future did not look bright for California’s immigrants in November 1994. Voters then passed Prop 187, which would have prohibited undocumented immigrants from using health care, public education, and other social services. Although a Federal court later found Prop 187 to be unconstitutional, the political climate remained hostile to immigrants for many years to come.
Immigrant-led grassroots organizations have spearheaded the multi-year effort to redefine California as inclusive to its immigrant residents – and win this year’s victories. These groups include Mujeres Unidas y Activas, which for 20 years has cultivated leadership among its Latina membership, trained them in the political process, and empowered them to influence it. They also include Mobilize the Immigrant Vote, a statewide coalition of organizations that works to educate immigrants around the policies that impact them and encourages immigrants to wield their power as voters. These are just two examples. The bottom line is that when the people most affected are at the forefront of the struggle for social justice, progress can and does occur.
Social justice is one of our core values here at The San Francisco Foundation. We believe that funding grassroots organizations that prioritize community leadership will lead to long-term, sustainable policy change.
We are proud to have stood by our many grantees who won this year’s game-changing victories. And we will continue to support community organizing to build people power and to realize our shared vision of an inclusive and equitable Bay Area.
Read more about our work toward policy wins for an inclusive and equitable Bay Area.