The Renegade Rip

ACLU office opens in Kern County

Bryana Lozoya, Reporter

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The Southern California American Civil Liberties Union (SoCal ACLU) marked the opening of its new office in Kern County with a press conference at the Kern County Liberty Bell on Nov. 1.

Community engagement policy advocate Rosa Lopez and staff attorney Jordan Wells are first staffers to the new office.

Lopez commented that the office will later gain three people to join their team: another attorney, a paralegal, and a community organizer.

ACLU SoCal, founded in 1923, was the first affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU defends the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the United States Constitution.

They advocate for free speech, gender equity, immigrants’ and LGBT rights, among many others.

Other offices of ACLU SoCal are located in Los Angeles, Santa Ana, and San Bernardino. 

Lopez grew up in Weedpatch in Kern County and has been an active organizer and policy advocate almost her entire life.

Before joining the ACLU SoCal, Lopez was a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic and worked as a career pathway specialist with John Muir Charter Schools.

Wells was previously staffed at the New York Civil Liberties Union where he litigated cases like the challenge to a Long Island Sheriff’s practice of detaining immigrants for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and a case seeking to establish farmworkers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively.

His attention in the Bakersfield office will focus primarily on litigation and advocacy related to civil rights and civil liberties, particularly those relating to immigrants’ rights and police practices.

He informed that the office’s first action in Bakersfield will be a Transparent Review of Unjust Transfers and Holds (TRUTH) Act forum on Dec.11.

According to a document obtained from the California Legislative Information website, the TRUTH act requires local law enforcement agencies to provide undocumented immigrants in their custody a written consent form in a language they understand prior to an interview with ICE that explains the purpose of the interview, that the interview is voluntary, and that immigrants are able to obtain copies of those documents. 

Starting Jan. 2018, the TRUTH act required local governments, who provided ICE access during the last year, to hold at least one public community forum to provide information about ICE’s access in the community.

Wells said the county board of supervisors and the sheriff will be given the chance to be transparent with the public to the degree to which they are cooperating with federal immigration enforcement, along with how they are cooperating with them.

“It has all kinds of cascading negative effects on the ability for the police to perform the function they’re supposed to, which is keeping our community safe, and has…negative effects on police-community relations,” Wells said.    

When asked about partnerships with local advocacy groups, Lopez confirmed that the Bakersfield ACLU office is working with advocacy groups for immigrant rights. Groups such as the United Farm Workers (UFW) Foundation, the Dolores Huerta Foundation, and Greater Bakersfield Legal Assistance (GBLA) have partnered with the ACLU office in Bakersfield.

The ACLU does not charge any of the clients they take on.

Wells commented that two of the main things the ACLU look for in cases are cases that can impact many individuals or develop the law in a way that is more protective of constitutional rights.

Since the ACLU does not take walk-ins, the location of the Bakersfield office will not be disclosed to the public, but their phone number is active. 

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ACLU office opens in Kern County