Annual Report 2019 - 2020
Thank you! Your continued investment in the ACLU proved more critical than ever this past year: 2019 brought unprecedented challenges, and 2020 has forced us to be increasingly nimble and strategic as we combat systems of oppression during this time of extreme uncertainty. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the lives of all Californians. Like many of you, ACLU staff have been working remotely since mid-March, while still carrying out a robust agenda to protect and advance civil rights and civil liberties here in Southern California and across the country.
As the map on the front of this poster demonstrates, the ACLU’s reach within the nation’s most populous state is immense. The ACLU of Southern California and our fellow affiliates in Northern California and San Diego together have 9 offices throughout the state serving the nearly 40 million people who call California home. For this year’s annual report, we aim to illustrate the impact of your support in Southern California and statewide, highlighting six key examples of the people you are helping and the systems you are transforming through your generosity. Your partnership also secured these hard-fought wins this past year:
- We co-sponsored and championed bills signed into law by Governor Newson that will repeal 23 of the most harmful criminal system fees in California, and ensure job-protected leave for Californians who work for an employer with five or more employees to bond with a newborn or care for a seriously ill family member or themselves.
- We filed lawsuits in two county jails and two federal prisons in Southern California to reduce their populations and ensure proper social distancing and sanitation in response to COVID-19.
- After years of advocacy, and in partnership with a broad coalition, we secured an end to transfers of people in custody of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to immigration authorities.
- In our litigation against Dignity Health on behalf of Evan Minton, a transgender man who was denied medical care because of his gender identity, we received a positive ruling from the California Court of Appeal confirming that it is illegal discrimination for a hospital to deny someone care simply because they are transgender.
- As part of our work to secure consistent and robust investments in permanent supportive housing and affordable housing to end homelessness in California, we helped lead advocacy for the state and counties to use COVID-19 emergency housing investments to expand safe housing options.
- We filed a class action lawsuit to force ICE agents to stop relying on deception to trick community members to open their doors and allow agents into their homes without judicial warrants.
In addition to pivoting our advocacy to virtual settings, including video court arguments and meetings with legislators, we also engaged with our membership base virtually — and saw historic turnout. Our online training sessions and advocacy briefings garnered greater turnout than in pre-COVID times as many ACLU members and supporters sought ways to engage while social distancing. Despite COVID, we also leveraged our People Power in Sacramento: our Virtual Lobby Day in August yielded 162 participants from across California who engaged in 28 lobby visits on ACLU priority bills!
Nationwide, we said we would see the Trump administration in court, and we’ve kept our promise and then some. Our team has filed 400 legal actions, and counting, since Inauguration Day. When COVID hit, ACLU staff responded swiftly, recognizing the profound danger the pandemic posed to vulnerable populations and our democracy. In the face of this protracted crisis, the ACLU has filed 192 pandemic-related legal actions focused on securing the release of vulnerable populations in detention, protecting our right to vote, demanding equal access to education, ensuring free speech, and stopping government authorities from preventing abortion care under the guise of public health.
This pandemic has laid bare the systemic oppression that is at the root of inequality in America. In the wake of the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and countless other Black, brown, and Indigenous people, the ACLU deepened support of and partnership with grassroots Black-led organizations to elevate the national spotlight on policing and protests and reimagine what public safety looks like. The ACLU remains dedicated to ending the nightmare of police brutality once and for all.
The stakes this November could not be higher. The ACLU has committed its full might to protecting voting rights and holding accountable the political leaders and lawmakers who cynically refuse to authorize or fund no-excuse mail-in voting, thereby forcing people to choose between their right to vote and their health. Here in California, we are working hard to target low propensity voters with information about how to vote, combat negative and harmful messages about mail-in voting, and educate the community on the importance of voting down-ballot.
The future remains uncertain, but the ACLU’s vision is crystal clear. As we have every day in our 100 year history, we will respond effectively to emerging challenges while continuing to push forward our proactive agenda of a more just and fair America for everyone. Thank you for standing with the ACLU and making this work possible.
In solidarity, with gratitude,
Hector O. Villagra