The Chicano Movement
Sources may vary on when exactly immigration activism began. Certainly there was no particular event that came first. However, by looking at the more recent (within 100 years) Chicano movement, we can discern a rough outline of the shape activism has taken in the last century.
The sixties, an era of widespread protest and activism among the then-younger generation, brought changes to the face of the international (particularly Latino) community. In 1962, Caesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers Organizing Committee became an independent organization. In 1966, the first Mexican-American history class was taught in an L.A. high school. 1969 saw the emergence of La Raza Unida Party (Castañeda).
With citizenship on their side, the young generation of born-in-america immigrants were beginning to demand equal treatment. Organizations formed left and right, protecting laborers and promoting the fight for fairness and equality.
In 1993,the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles formed in response to the turbulence and struggle the immigrant community had experienced in the 1980’s. very quickly, they began dealing with emergent and continued issues within the state of California. Proposition 187 was passed the year after CHIRLA was established, the new policy spreading fear and discrimination throughout communities and organizations on both sides of the immigration debate. Prop. 187 denied access to public education, health and social services to illegal immigrants. Although later declared unconstitutional, Prop. 187 left behind a trail of social degeneration that CHIRLA worked to reverse. They released “hate unleashed” which documented 267 confirmed cases of discrimination against people who appeared to be illegal.
CHIRLA has undergone many projects in community organization, education, advocacy, and civic involvement. They have lead many pro-immigration campaigns and community engagement projects ("Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles").
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund was founded in 1968 after the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, two of American history’s greatest civil rights advocates. The MALDEF had their sights set on addressing and satisfying the needs of the Latino community through legal action ("MALDEF").
They have had significant legal victories and political impacts over their 40 years of operation. Plyler v. Doe in 1982, spearheaded by MALDEF attorneys, removed an unconstitutional policy in Texas. Before said case, Texas school districts would require proof of permanent residency from immigrants, if they could not deliver proof of such a status they must pay full tuition for their children to go to school. The 5 to 4 supreme court decision ruled the law unconstitutional, stating “It is difficult to understand what the state hopes to achieve by creating and perpetuating a subclass of illiterates” ("Plyler vs. Doe").
There have been many other MALDEF-led legal victories that have helped to chip away at the immense pileup of unjust laws and policies that remove human rights from immigrants. White v. Regester raised the value of a Latino vote by removing the threat of strategic, discriminatory redistricting systems. Melendres v. Arpaio effectively took care of a sheriff in Arizona who had become nationally recognized for his racial profiling policies. Currently, among many other legal battles, MALDEF is involved in a case concerning the constitutionality of proposition 100, which would make undocumented persons charged with certain felonies ineligible for bail ("MALDEF").
Asian Pacific Americans are one of the fastest growing populations in the US. The Asian Pacific American Legal Center serves this expanding population through direct legal services, impact litigation, policy analysis and advocacy, and leadership development.
APALC has defended the Asian Pacific American community in many court cases. As well they serve the public with legal counseling and representation in poverty law, housing, immigration, domestic violence and consumer rights cases. Many of those APALC represents are restricted by language barriers. APALC, being a multilingual institution, was able to provide them with a fair shot at winning their case.
The organization as well has played a part in promoting multiethnic collaboration. APALC has collaborated with many advocacy groups and social service providers, in efforts to bring good quality of life to those who need it.
Although their community contributions are certainly important, the bulk of APALC’s work lies in the area of litigations. In collaboration with other advocacy groups, APALC helped lead the Bureerong v. Uvawas lawsuit, a pivotal workers' rights case. They have also been involved with the fight against the prevention of sweatshops and sweatshop dependence.
APALC has made one of their objectives to work across barriers of all types, whether they be lingual, racial, or geographic. APALC seeks to reduce the significance of these barriers and allow people to treat each other like people regardless of their degree of separation ("Asian Pacific American Legal Center").
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