ZFF partners have been instrumental in helping to provide much needed services and support to immigrants and their families during this pandemic. One such partner is the California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice (CCIJ). CCIJ is a coalition of legal service providers that offers coordination, advocacy, and free legal services to the detained immigrant community in northern and central California. Its core programs include: detention center visits, pro se assistance, “attorney of the day” court support, case referrals, rapid response data collection, policy and advocacy, and legal representation. In the last few years, CCIJ and its partners have been instrumental in responding to the immediate needs of immigrants and advocating for just policies in California.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, health officials have called detention centers “petri dishes” for the spread of the virus. Advocates around the country have demanded that immigrants be released from these overcrowded, unsanitary facilities and for alternatives to detention to be considered. Nationally, ICE has been slow to respond to these demands. In California, progress has been made in this area in large part because of CCIJ’s work. Despite the restrictions created by COVID-19, CCIJ skillfully leveraged data, used regional connections, and convened diverse stakeholders in order to access detained immigrants and address the growing concerns around the spread of virus and the inadequate medical care for those infected. CCIJ is a key partner to the legal team in the Zepeda Rivas class action litigation in the Northern District of California. This case has resulted in the release of approximately half of all immigrants detained at Yuba County Jail and Mesa Verde Detention Facility since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Before the Zepeda Rivas class was certified, class counsel did not have access to data on unrepresented immigrants detained at the two facilities. CCIJ’s data infrastructure, developed over the last several years, made it possible for class counsel to access information previously collected and synthesized by CCIJ about unrepresented detained immigrants. This information included medical and mental health conditions, immigration history, and family contact information. As a result, class counsel had a significant head start on collecting data and preparing individualized bail applications for more than 400 immigrants detained in northern and central California prior to COVID-19. CCIJ attorneys also provided several declarations in support of other litigation efforts to release detained community members and halt transfers into and between ICE detention facilities.
In addition to the litigation work, CCIJ plays a key advocacy role in California. CCIJ supported detained individuals who organized hunger strikes and exposed the deadly conditions inside detention facilities by coordinating sign-on letters and urging state and federal officials to take humanitarian action on behalf of those detained. Moreover, CCIJ partnered with Immigrant Defense Advocates (IDA) on AB 3228, a bill on immigrant detention. This bill addresses detention conditions in private facilities and holds them accountable. It ensures that all detention facilities in California adhere to minimum detention standards and provides a cause of action in state court for any violations. Importantly, AB 3228 builds on the AB 32, the bill to end private detention centers in California which CCIJ also worked on. Governor Newsom recently signed AB 3228 into law and CCIJ will work with its partners to ensure implementation.
ZFF is proud to support CCIJ and the critical work it does protecting immigrant rights and making California a more just state. CCIJ’s nimbleness and ability to quickly respond to immigrant needs during this pandemic reinforces its role as a leader in the Bay Area and the state.