California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance
ORGANIZATIONAL BACKGROUND SUMMARY
CIYJA, which was established in 2011, arose from the need for a statewide infrastructure to support the growing number of grassroots immigrant youth-led community-based organizations across the state after the DREAM Act movement of 2010. During this time, most grassroots organizations adopted the words “DREAM” and “DREAMers” into their names, resulting in CIYJA’s initial name “California Dream Team Alliance” (CADTA). As undocumented youth began leading the immigrant youth movement, organizations in California began meeting and engaging undocumented youth who would not have qualified for the DREAM Act, lacked access to resources, were forced to quit school due to their current status, were under deportation procedures, and were criminalized due to institutional discrimination. Because CIYJA seeks to be inclusive, CIYJA changed its name in 2013, intentionally removing the connection to the DREAM narrative, which was counterproductive to CIYJA’s ultimate mission of empowering and engaging ALL immigrant youth in California regardless of their educational background. CIYJA’s role is to provide access to resources, tools, leadership development, and spaces of empowerment to all undocumented youth. By engaging all undocumented immigrant youth, it allows CIYJA to develop creative and intersectional campaigns.
CIYJA advocates for immigrant rights and organizes to help bring awareness to our communities about intersectional issues ranging from LGBTQ, labor, mass incarceration, and the harm that deportations cause to our communities. Through the development of community-based undocumented immigrant youth organizations, CIYJA seeks to establish progressive and diverse immigrant youth-led organizing efforts in the state of California. CIYJA provides resources, tools and spaces for immigrant youth to develop as leaders and to engage their communities to become active participants in local politics. CIYJA is invested in supporting educational, organizing, and advocacy efforts by the member organizations for the enhancement and improvement of the lives of immigrant youth and their communities in California.
CIYJA is housed at MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund). Founded in 1968, MALDEF’s mission is to advance Latino civil rights in the United States. MALDEF pursues this mission through advocacy, community education, and litigation at the federal, state, local levels. MALDEF’s programmatic areas include employment and equal opportunity, equal educational opportunity, immigrant rights, and political access. MALDEF has a long history of supporting immigrant youth organizing and leadership development. With almost 50 years of experience, and as a key stakeholder in the immigrant rights movement, MALDEF’s partnership allows for CIYJA to have access to key decision-making spaces and to amplify the voice of undocumented immigrant youth in California. Furthermore, through MALDEF’s policy and legal work, it provides CIYJA legal support when engaging in advocacy and activism. MALDEF is committed to continue providing fiscal sponsorship, and other support, for the success of CIYJA’s immigrant youth-led community-based immigrant rights organizing.
Since founded, CIYJA has positioned itself as a leading immigrant youth organization; convened its 13 affiliated organizations; provided leadership and organizational development tools and resources for immigrant youth-led grassroots organizations; built a strong brand and communications presence; and partnered in statewide, and national, collaborative to ensure immigrant youth have a voice in the immigrant rights discourse. CIYJA’s network of affiliates has grown in the past years. Currently, the following 13 affiliates compose CIYJA:
● Antelope Valley Dream Team (AVDT)
● DREAM Team Los Angeles (DTLA)
● Fresno Immigrant Youth in Action (FIYA)
● Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Coalition (IE-IYC)
● Los Angeles Immigrant Youth Coalition (LA-IYC)
● Napa Valley Dream Team (NVDT)
● North Bay Immigrant Youth Union (NBIYU)
● Orange County Immigrant Youth United (OCIYU)
● San Diego Dream Team (SDDT)
● San Fernando Valley Dream Team (SFVDT)
● San Gabriel Valley Immigrant Youth Coalition (SGV-IYC)
● San Joaquin Immigrant Youth Collective (SJ-IYC)
CIYJA serves as a hub for affiliated organizations and their members to share their strategies, leadership development tools, strengths, and challenges within their regions. CIYJA’s statewide infrastructure has allowed for its affiliated organizations to come together and advocate for immigrant rights as a collective, and be active participants in key statewide coalitions.