Annual Report 2022 - 2023
The ACLU of Southern California is celebrating its centennial anniversary, marking 100 years of relentless, trailblazing advocacy in the courts, in legislative chambers, and in our communities.
Author Upton Sinclair and a small but brave cadre of activists founded our organization in 1923. The era was characterized by anti-immigrant sentiment, entrenched white supremacy and segregation, pervasive sexism, and violent police crackdowns on labor unions and dissidents. Most of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution had not been upheld by the courts and were frequently ignored by the authorities at the time, making them largely meaningless for many.
Since then, thanks to our partner organizations, community activists, and supporters like you, the ACLU has played a pivotal role in the expansion of civil rights and liberties in the United States—with Southern California often leading the way.
In the last century, we fought back against the incarceration of people of Japanese descent during World War II, won the nation’s first successful school desegregation lawsuit on behalf of Mexican-American students in Lemon Grove, convinced the California Supreme Court to become the first court in the land to strike down an abortion ban, and became among the first to support the rights of people with HIV.
Year after year, the ACLU SoCal is powered by the courage of our clients, the talent and tenacity of our staff and volunteers, and the steadfast support of our members and donors.
The last few years have demanded much from all of us, and we know there are many battles left to fight.
- Challenging the Trump administration: we met the challenges posed by the Trump administration’s attacks on rights.
- Fighting against inhumane ICE detention centers: Through a global pandemic, we worked to protect the human and civil rights of vulnerable people and communities—from low-income students, to unhoused people, to immigrants and asylum-seekers in ICE detention centers.
- Defending our right to protest: As our country experienced a national reckoning over racism and police violence, we defended the right to protest.
- Protecting deported veterans: After years of advocacy, we have begun to see success in our efforts to secure citizenship for deported veterans, and are calling on Congress to pass the Veteran Service Recognition Act.
- Fighting against L.A.'s inhumane jail system: In Los Angeles, home to the largest jail system in the country, we secured a groundbreaking settlement that will create 1,925 community mental health beds as an alternative to jailing people with mental illness.
As we have done since our founding, we continue to break new ground in our ongoing fight to defend and expand civil rights and civil liberties. We will continue to show up whenever people’s rights are in jeopardy, holding the line for democracy while seizing every opportunity for proactive change.
As you read our 2023 Centennial Report, we hope you feel proud to play a role in an institution as central to our democracy as the ACLU SoCal.
The stories in this report, and many more which are unpublished, represent critical moments in the ACLU SoCal's history—and the history of Southern California itself. Not all our fights ended successfully. Other fights were lonely until we got involved. But all illustrate our unwavering commitment to the cause of justice.
Here’s to another 100 years of defending and advancing liberty and justice for all.