Policy & Advocacy

Our policy and advocacy department works with community leaders to challenge the status quo and bring about real change in this country. We focus on advancing policy platforms that urge all levels of government to invest in the potential of immigrants and refugees. That means pushing civil and workers’ rights, economic equity and environmental justice for everyone.

Our Policy Priorities

  • Offer equal protection to immigrants
  • Challenge anti-immigrant legislation
  • Reduce immigration enforcement
  • Seek investment in and inclusion of immigrant communities


CHIRLA's federal platform advocates for a humane and comprehensive, immigration reform fully inclusive of immigrants that protects their human rights. We work to ensure that federal policies offer equal protection to immigrants, challenge anti-immigrant legislation, call for reductions in immigration enforcement, and seek investment in the inclusion of immigrant communities.


In California, CHIRLA seeks to make the Golden State a pro-immigrant model for the rest of the nation. We will advance state and budgetary proposals that enhance the contributions of immigrants, streamline resources to advance immigrant integration, reform the criminal justice system, enhance due process for all, foster community policing models to rebuild trust between law enforcement and immigrants, and invest to increase opportunities in education for immigrants and their children.


CHIRLA’s regional work advances city-level and county-level policies that protect immigrant rights while encouraging their integration through better economic opportunities and civic engagement. Increased collaboration between federal and local law enforcement agencies in recent years has led CHIRLA to focus on disentangling local police from federal immigration enforcers to protect our immigrant community.

Our Work

National, State & Local Policy


Immigrants at the National Level

About 44 million immigrants live and work in the United States, according to the Pew Research Center. That’s about 13.5 percent of the U.S. population. Of them, 19.8 million are naturalized citizens; 11.9 million are Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs); and 2.1 million have temporary legal status, including 689,800 with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and 300,000 with Temporary Protection Status (TPS).

About 11 million immigrants are undocumented, and many have both deep roots in the community and citizen family members. For example, 16.7 million people in the country have at least one undocumented family member; 8 million U.S. citizens have at least one undocumented family member; and 5.9 million citizen children live with at least one undocumented family member.

CHIRLA’s goals are:

  • A just and humane immigration system that provides access to permanent legal status, family unity, and worker protections
  • Protection of the human and civil rights of immigrant families
  • Less funding to deport immigrants and separate families
  • More oversight of all agencies in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

CHIRLA mobilizes its members to push for fair, pro-immigrant policies, and overhaul of the immigration system.


CHIRLA's Federal, State and Local Response to COVID-19

On March 11, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. The ensuing worldwide crisis exposed systemic weaknesses that hamper immigrant access to key services. Government at all levels must respond swiftly, compassionately, and equitably, always accounting for the unique challenges facing immigrants and refugees.

CHIRLA Advocating for All Immigrants

Watch Angelica Salas on Democracy Now (32:00)

Federal COVID-19 Response Timeline

  • Mar 6, 2020

    March 6, 2020

    Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2020 signed into law. President Trump requested only $1.25 billion, but Congress allocated $8.3 billion in emergency funding for federal agency response. CHIRLA took no position.

    • $3.1 billion for Health and Social Services to develop and purchase vaccines and medical supplies
    • Grants created for state, local, and tribal public health agencies and organizations
    • $100 million for community health centers
    • $950 million for state and local preparedness grants
  • Mar 6, 2020

    March 13, 2020

    The federal government declares national emergency and takes the following steps: 

    • Provides $50 billion to states 
    • Gives Secretary of Health and Human Services authority to waive requirements for Medicare, Medicaid, and state children’s health insurance
    • Waives interest payments on student loans
  • Mar 6, 2020

    March 18, 2020

    Families First Coronavirus Response Act allocates $3.47 billion to assist individuals affected by the COVID-19. CHIRLA supports this effort.

    • Establishes federally funded paid sick leave 
    • Requires employers to give workers sick leave
    • Expands unemployment benefits 
    • Increases funding and access to Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)
    • Gives employers and the self-employed tax credits to cover paid sick days
  • Mar 6, 2020

    March 19, 2020

    Senate Republicans introduce the CARES Act, a $1.6 trillion COVID-19 relief package. CHIRLA opposed it.

    • Bailed out industries affected by COVID-19
    • No protections for immigrants workers and families were included
  • Mar 6, 2020

    March 23, 2020

    House Democrats released Take Responsibility for Workers and Family Act, A $2.5 trillion relief package. CHIRLA supports this effort. 

    • Ensures that COVID-19 testing and treatment is available and free for anyone who needs it
    • Provides more economic protections for workers  
    • Increases unemployment benefits
    • Provides $200 billion to states and $15 billion to local governments to mitigate budget deficits
  • Mar 6, 2020

    March 27, 2020

    The Cares Act is signed into law.

    • Mitigates public health and economic impact of COVID-19 pandemic
    • Provides more access to testing and treatment for the uninsured
    • Provides cash payments to families
    • Provides enhanced unemployment security for workers
    • Immigrants are not included. With more than 50 million immigrants, 12 million of whom are undocumented, this exclusion hurts tens of millions of families.
  • Mar 6, 2020

    April 13, 2020

    The addressing extension of employment autorization and immigrants in detention centers during COVID-19.

    • Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) urges the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to utilize its discretionary powers to automatically extend employment authorization for all immigrants whose employment authorization documents (EADs) are about to expire.
    • The FIRST Act was introduced by Senator Booker (NJ) and Congresswoman Jayapal (WA) to release the majority of immigrants in civil detention and limit immigration enforcement during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  • Mar 6, 2020

    April 21, 2020

    The Trump administration prohibits undocumented college students from receiving emergency federal cash assistance for expenses like food, child care and housing.

    • The CARES Act provided $6 billion to higher education institutions The Education Department officials in new guidance directed colleges that only U.S. citizens and some legal permanent residents.
    • Excluding, hundreds of thousands of recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has provided work authorization and deportation protections for undocumented immigrant youth.
  • Mar 6, 2020

    April 23, 2020

    President Trump issued a proclamation suspending  the entry of immigrants into the U.S. for 60 days if:

    • They are outside the U.S. as of the effective date of the Presidential Proclamation [April 23, 2020];
    • Do not have a valid immigrant visa on the effective date; and
    • Do not have an official travel document other than a visa [i.e. transportation letter, boarding foil, or advance parole document] that is valid on the effective date of the Presidential Proclamation or issued on any date thereafter that permits travel to the U.S. to seek entry or admission. 
  • Mar 6, 2020

    April 24, 2020

    Latest COVID-19 rescue package, Supreme Court action and USCIS announcement.


CHIRLA Responds to passage of the CARES Act

Immigrants workers put food on our tables, care for our children and elderly, clean our homes, deliver and stock our groceries, and staff our health care facilities, but the $2 trillion CARES bill excluded them. This is cruel, shortsighted and at odds with any serious attempt to tackle this crisis.


Our Demands on Immigration Enforcement and Detention

  • We call for a complete halt of immigration enforcement during this pandemic. In the same week Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Governor Newsom issued a stay-at-home order, ICE agents executed an enforcement operation. After severe pressure, ICE suggested it would halt most arrests and deportations, focusing only on “public safety risks” and people “subject to mandatory detention based on criminal grounds,” However, no policy directive was issued to provide a uniformity, and detentions instead went up in March. 
  • We call for the release of all immigrants in, and a halt to any expansion of, detention centers. 
  • Immigrants face choosing between their health or fighting for a chance to stay. While immigration courts are closed until May 1 for cases involving people out on bond,, they continue to prosecute cases in detention.
  • CHIRLA joins 70 advocacy organizations in requesting that all immigration courts close during this pandemic.

California’s Actions to Combat COVID-19

In the absence of inclusive and equitable relief for immigrants from the federal government during the emergency, CHIRLA joins 60 organizations in urging California to create a state response for immigrant communities including access testing treatment, and economic relief. 

On March 19, Governor Gavin Newsom issued a stay-at-home order for all of California—the first in the nation. That week, the Legislature approved $1 billion in new spending to combat COVID-19.

In Newsom’s order, only essential industries and essential workers can operate. About one-third of California’s essential workforce is immigrant, and fills a crucial gap to help California meet this unprecedented challenge. Immigrants care for the sick and ensure our food security during the COVID-19 crisis. In 2016, almost one in four California doctors had graduated from a foreign medical school, a likely sign they were born elsewhere. Also, 121,141 of our nurses (36 percent) are foreign-born. Of the state’s nursing assistants, home health aides and psychiatric workers, 90,217 (44 percent) are foreign-born.

Sean Tan member of the California Dream Network, CHIRLA’s college state-wide youth program, to participate in She the People-Congressional Women of Color Town Hall focused on COVID-19 Relief in Congress. Sean spoke about his own experience, his concerns and asked Rep. Chu a question. Watch the video here (40 min mark).


Los Angeles City and County Actions to Combat COVID-19

On March 19, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and Mayor Eric Garcetti issued  a Safer at Home order that required residents to shelter in place. Since March 4, Garcetti has issued 13 COVID-19 orders, including an emergency declaration, to detail what residents can do and how city workers should respond. The City Council approved $20 million in reserve funds to respond to COVID-19 and activated the Disaster Service Worker program.

In the absence of inclusive and equitable COVID-19 relief from the federal government for immigrants, a coalition of 70 organizations, including CHIRLA, urged the city and county to create a plan to prevent mass evictions, expand county health programs, help those who do not qualify for federal aid, and work with law enforcers to keep from turning immigrants over to ICE. 

For the moment, here are the most important city actions:

COVID-19 testing In Los Angeles is free for everyone, though it is currently limited to people showing symptoms or those who can’t work because they’ve been exposed to an infected person. Also, there is priority for the elderly and those with underlying illnesses, and first responders or essential workers. People can apply through a diagnostic portal to determine eligibility. City officials are working to increase capacity for more testing.

A local moratorium on evictions is in place through Garcetti’s emergency order of March 15, which expressly barred landlords from evicting tenants who experience the following:

  • Reduced hours or loss of income because of workplace closure
  • Loss of income or child care costs because of school closures
  • Health care bills because a tenant or a member of the tenant’s household has COVID-19
  • Reasonable costs stemming from government emergency measures
  • CHIRLA worked with The City and Los Angeles County in the approval of separate measures to create a rental assistance program and expand eviction protections. These programs are likely to be implemented in May, 2020.

The CHIRLA Policy & Advocacy Team


Joseph Villela

Policy & Advocacy Director

Joseph Villela is director of policy and advocacy at CHIRLA. He has dedicated his career to changing policy through direct engagement with immigrants, workers, and other impacted communities throughout California. Joseph is a dedicated and accomplished government relation professional with more than a decade of experience in monitoring, analyzing legislation, with a successful legislative track resulting in the enactment of countless state proposals and millions in investments for programs to integrate immigrant populations. At CHIRLA, he has developed and managed legislative and  budget campaigns to improve the lives of the most vulnerable Californians. Joseph is a University of Los Angeles California (UCLA) graduate and is a proud parent of a 7-year-old.

Carl Bergquist

Carl Bergquist

Policy Counsel

Carl Bergquist,  a social justice advocate and an immigrant from Sweden, helps steer CHIRLA’s advocacy efforts at the national level. He holds a law degree from the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. While in Hawaiʻi, he was Executive Director for the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaiʻi, working to reform racist drug laws that hurt immigrants and Native Hawaiians. Carl has a master´s degree in Ethnic and Migration Studies from the University of Amsterdam, and a bachelor’s degree in foreign service from Georgetown University.


Christopher Sanchez

Policy Advocate

Christopher Sanchez is CHIRLA’s representative in legislative circles in Sacramento. He advances CHIRLA’s state legislative platform as he educates and builds relationships with members of the Legislature, state agencies, and other policy making bodies that impact the lives of immigrants in California. Christopher has worked on criminal justice reform, expanding access to higher education, workers’ rights, and the environment. Campaigns he has worked on include Education Not Deportation, which halted a close friend’s deportation, and the passage of AB 539, which protects Californians from predatory loans.


Mariana Magaña

Policy Advocate

Mariana Magaña is the local policy advocate at CHIRLA. She has a bachelor's degree in political science from UCLA and is a former executive fellow through Sacramento State University and the office of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. Born in Jalisco, Mexico and raised in Santa Monica, Mariana is passionate about inclusive immigration policy and challenging conventional immigrant narratives.

CHIRLA has been serving and protecting the immigrant community since 1986. We're a nonprofit organization that relies largely on your support to getting our work done. Please pledge your support today!