Frontera Fund: Why it is Imperative to Fund Civil Rights Organizations Such as CHIRLA

The Immigration Reform & Control Act of 1986 rubbed some Americans the wrong way. The act, among other things, sought to outlaw the hiring of undocumented workers. Many people argued that such a move would open a can of worms; existing undocumented workers would be abused and they would have no place to seek justice as the justice systems outlaws them. Learn more about Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey: https://www.facebook.com/jimlarkin53 and https://michael-lacey.com/

Civil organizations sprung up across America. California, specifically Los Angeles, saw the formation of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (or CHIRLA in short).

CHIRLA, founded in 1986, was the culmination of the activities undertaken by the representatives of various organizations. Some of the bodies that had a hand in the establishment of CHIRLA include the Central American Resource Center, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice, local law firms, and other like-minded organizations.

Representatives from the said bodies formed a steering committee tasked with spearheading the efforts of charities, legal service firms, and advocacy groups regarding immigrants.

It was not long before the efforts of the committee were noticed by United Way of America, a not-for-profit organization that raises funds for progressive courses, which sponsored the formation of CHIRLA. Initially, CHIRLA concerned itself with education, political advocacy, and community mobilization with regards to immigrant rights.

Although the Immigration Reform and Control Act sought to outlaw the hiring of undocumented immigrants, the act provided an opportunity for immigrants to gain legal status. CHIRLA was at the forefront of assisting immigrants to perform the necessary paperwork to attain legal recognition.

Beyond helping them achieve legal status, CHIRLA assisted immigrants, in their newfound status, to access healthcare, education, welfare, employment, etc.

So far, CHIRLA has scaled the heights of civil rights advocacy with the establishment of Immigrant Women’s Taskforce, California Domestic Workers’ Coalition, and other bodies to focus on specific needs of immigrants.

For example, the California Domestic Workers’ Coalition, founded in conjunction with San Francisco Bay Area Domestic Worker Coalition and other like-minded bodies, is famous for sponsoring Assembly Bill 2536. The bill sought to stop employers from exploiting undocumented workers by not compensating them their overtime dues. Read more: Michael Lacey | Twitter and Jim Larkin | Crunchbase

Some undocumented students have benefitted from CHIRLA. The body advocates for the rights of immigrants to attain higher education. CHIRLA has established clubs in various high schools in Los Angeles whose missions are to support and provide resources to immigrant, undocumented students.

CHIRLA, alongside Marco Firebaugh—an Assembly member—spearheaded efforts to pass a bill that would give undocumented students in-state tuition.

The extensive work covered by CHIRLA requires adequate financing.

Forward-thinking individuals such as Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, journalists, are hoping to finance organizations such as CHIRLA that advocate for civil, human, and migrant rights. To this end, the two founded the Frontera Fund.

Lacey and Larkin decided to found the fund after they were targeted for covering a story about Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and how the grand jury investigating the sheriff was hell-bent to minimize the information reaching the public regarding the proceedings.

Their illegal arrest resulted in a suit that yielded $3.75 million; the money Frontera Fund relies on.

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