These defiant and hopeful words from one of America’s foremost poets, Maya Angelou, have propelled many of CAIR-CA’s efforts in years past to guarantee freedom and dignity for all. With the COVID-19 pandemic and reckonings around racial justice rocking the nation, CAIR-CA redoubled its focus on challenging white supremacy manifesting as anti-immigrant bigotry and Islamophobia. During these uniquely difficult times, our team worked tirelessly on behalf of the American Muslim community to ameliorate the Trump administration’s attacks against vulnerable and targeted communities.
In 2020, CAIR-CA conducted 1,769 legal intakes serving impacted individuals, families, and organizations. In March 2020, in line with State health directives we closed our offices due to the COVID-19 pandemic and transitioned to providing remote legal services, yet we continued to serve the community by successfully transitioning to providing remote legal services.
Driving our direct representation was sustained outreach, organizing, political advocacy, and educational publications aimed at redressing civil rights violations. CAIR-CA’s attorneys sent demand letters to and filed lawsuits against employers, airlines, and government agencies responsible for engaging in anti-Muslim animus. In response to the unprecedented economic crisis brought about by the pandemic, CAIR-CA’s legal teams pivoted rapidly to aid individuals who faced sudden employment termination and eviction.
Meanwhile, CAIR-CA’s immigration programs continued to offer representation on matters as diverse as removal defense,naturalization, adjustment of status, family reunification, employment authorization, and asylum. Our immigration attorneys filed petitions for relief under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) for victims of domestic violence and for victims of certain crimes under the U Nonimmigrant Status (U-Visa) category. Meanwhile, CAIR-CA’s increased focus on individuals facing long-term detention and eventual deportations ensured that individuals and families had a fighting chance to stay together by providing immediate and effective legal representation.
While the overall number of immigration and civil rights complaints received by our offices declined, complaints relating to travel nearly tripled. This increase was a result of pandemic-related border closures and travel restrictions. For example, CAIR-CA aided Yemeni Americans who struggled to ensure the safety of their loved ones who found themselves stranded in Yemen and unable to return home.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s relentless assault on immigrants ensured that CAIR-CA’s immigration teams had their hands full attempting to protect people fleeing violence and persecution only to face the onslaught of expedited removal policies for asylum seekers. We also challenged the implementation of public charge rules aimed at marginalizing working class immigrants by creating unnecessary obstacles to obtain permanent lawful status.
Ultimately, CAIR-CA continued its stringent advocacy and representation of individuals, families, and social institutions to build a nation grounded in justice, equality, inclusivity, and religious harmony.