Immigrant Justice

PICO California develops leaders within immigrant communities and addresses a range of local and national issues affecting immigrant families. We believe that full citizenship rights for 11 million aspiring Americans is the only response to our broken patchwork of immigration laws consistent with the American values of freedom, fairness and family. We seek to replace the dominant narrative of othering and criminalization with one that affirms all immigrants are deserving of protection from unjust laws.

Our main purpose is to end the criminalization of undocumented immigrants and the detention/deportation machine. We promote pro-immigrant policies including affordable housing, living wage, and access to quality healthcare and education. Our local affiliates engage in fights that challenge the profiteering machine and private corporations that create and sustain racist systems and inhumane treatment of undocumented individuals.

PICO California focuses on dismantling the mass deportation machine and immigrant detention, ending local contracts with ICE, and stopping the cooperation between local governments and ICE. In parallel, we pursue pro-immigrant legislation through local and staff efforts, as well as through holding officials accountable to an agenda of keeping families together. 

We are committed to the protection and security of immigrant communities through various means of resistance, including deportation defense, sanctuary advocacy, preserving asylum protections for those fleeing murderous regimes and domestic violence, and fighting for the rights of all immigrants including undocumented workers and families, Dreamers, and those with Temporary Protected Status.

Protecting the rights of the undocumented

PICO California stands with all 11 million undocumented people in the United States. We are committed to stopping the mass detention and deportation machine by working to cut the flow of money from Congress to ICE and Border Patrol. We advocate for a clean DREAM Act and for the protection of TPS recipients. We stand with border communities in their fight against border militarization and a wall.

PICO California works with local communities on four different defense programs: rapid response, accompaniment, deportation defense, and sanctuary. Our local affiliates run one of the largest Rapid Response Networks in the country, staffed by volunteers who quickly respond to ICE and Border Patrol activity and are able to provide immediate assistance and community support to victims. Our congregations offer accompaniment, supporting individuals at their ICE check-ins, court dates, and through their deportation process. In many cases congregations and families choose to publicly fight a congregants’ deportation through deportation defense. Lastly, many of our congregations offer sanctuary to the most vulnerable among us.

No one stands alone

Instead of resolving key immigration policy disputes over issues such as DACA and Temporary Protected Status (TPS), Congress continues to back spending bills that expand militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border. This militarization includes building a border wall that would be expensive and ineffective, increasing the number of border patrol agents and adding more immigration detention beds. These policies jeopardize the lives, and livelihoods, of immigrants, the majority of whom are Latino and Black and are already living with the heightened terror of being torn from their families and homes.

The bedrock of any immigration legislation must emphasize family unity and reject the expansion of border-related enforcement, detention, and security. PICO California supports comprehensive immigration reform policies that would allow all undocumented immigrants to become U.S. citizens.

We also support the expansion of immigration programs to include the parents of DACA recipients, and workers who otherwise are not eligible for administrative relief.

Our History of Organizing for Immigrant Justice

  • In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2020 we organized to get the CA Department of Health Care Services to implement no-cost testing and treatment of COVID-19 regardless of immigration status, achieved $75 million in statewide disaster relief assistance funding to provide financial support for 150,000 immigrant workers affected by COVID-19, and helped pass local emergency shelter ordinances and state legislation to protect millions of tenants from eviction and property owners from foreclosure due to the pandemic’s economic impacts.
  • After years of organizing by San Diego Organizing Project and partners, in 2021 the San Diego County Board of Supervisors created the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs, serving as a centralized hub connecting individuals and families to services. It proactively engages with the community to provide information, educate on important topics and connect individuals and families to vital county and community resources. It creates referrals to the Immigrant Rights Legal Defense Program for detained immigrants facing deportation and helps connect individuals to trusted legal resources in the community.

In September 2018, PICO California, Faith in Action, and #DefundHate coalition partners helped defeat ICE’s special funding request for expanded immigrant detentions. Grassroots leaders drove calls to congressional representatives, circulated petitions, signed a letter to congressional leadership and appropriators and conducted nine meetings with our senators’ and representatives’ staff to block approval of the increased funding.

  • Not only did the coalition successfully stop ICE from receiving an extra billion dollars to bulk up immigrant detention, we also limited their power and the amount of funding they received in the following fiscal year.
  • Thanks in part to PICO California’s persistent advocacy and narrative-shaping, one of the strongest bills in the country protecting immigrant families – Senate Bill 54 – passed in October 2017. SB54 vastly limits whom state and local law enforcement agencies can hold, question, and transfer at the request of federal authorities.
  • The efforts of our local affiliates have also been successful in keeping families together when faced with threats of detention and deportation from ICE. In San Francisco in March 2018, Floricel Liborio Ramos was released from ICE Detention after a year of being detained, denied bond multiple times, and separated from her three children and community. More than 70 community members and leaders of PICO California local affiliate Faith in Action Bay Area (FIABA) packed the courthouse for Floricel’s second habeas hearing, in which the judge ruled against the previous judge who had denied Floricel bail, and ordered her immediate release. When ICE delayed in carrying out the judge’s order to release Floricel. Immediately, FIABA leaders turned up community pressure on ICE, directing dozens of calls to the ICE Supervising Deportation Officer to demand her release. After several hours of pressure, ICE announced Floricel would be immediately processed for her release and transported to San Francisco. Several hours later, she arrived as a free woman and was greeted with open arms by her community.
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