Espera is to wait. Esperanza is to hope.
In Spanish, you cannot have one without the other. The same is true in life, regardless of the language you speak.
We have all spent 2021 waiting. We have waited for changes promised by the Biden administration, the global COVID-19 pandemic to finally recede, for justice following the January 6 insurrection, for the verdict to be announced in the cases of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery’s murders, and for Afghan parolees to be swiftly and safely welcomed.
However, CAIR-CA did not spend this period of waiting in vain. Across the state, our offices received 1,990 intakes in 2021. The intakes received described complaints from community members related to religious-based discrimination and Islamophobic bias incidents, as well as requests for immigration legal services, as community members sought asylum or applied for adjustment of status.
Of these requests for legal assistance, our Greater Los Angeles Area office received 837, followed closely by the 725 reported to our San Francisco Bay Area office. The Sacramento Valley and Central California office received 366, with our office in San Diego receiving 62.
70% of these intakes were requests for immigration services – 1,338 requests throughout the state. CAIR-CA’s immigration attorneys represented clients on matters as diverse as removal defense, naturalization, petition for relatives, and much more. Naturalization services were the most-requested service in 2021, with Humanitarian Parole Applications and other immigration assistance similarly in high demand. Our legal team was called to adjust to rapid shifts in immigration law following the change in the presidency and the sudden influx of evacuees from Afghanistan – all while continuing and expanding their capacity for immigration delay litigation, removal defense, and representing minor children alone in the United States. The combined perseverance, patience, and persistence of our immigration attorneys and their clients proved victorious in securing many of our community member’s permanent legal status in the United States.
The remaining 30% of intakes, 652 reported incidents, were handled by our civil rights legal team. The most-reported categories of civil rights violations that CAIR-CA offices received were employment discrimination, law enforcement harassment, and hate incidents. Our civil rights team carries the privilege of representing community members who have suffered discrimination from the effects of hyper-surveillance from law enforcement and other forms of institutionalized Islamophobia, as well as anti-Muslim conduct in school, work, or while traveling and who have been victimized by Islamophobic hate incidents and crimes. For our civil rights team specifically, 2021 was full of moments where the power of patient perseverance proved victorious in pursuing justice for victims as well as enacting policy change.
At CAIR California, 2021 will not be forgotten – but our memories will be of the successes that rewarded our patience. The Quran reads, “Oh you who believe! Persevere in patience and constancy. Vie in such perseverance, strengthen each other, and be pious, that you may prosper” (3:200) – it is the perseverance of our community that has inspired the work of our legal departments. Legal work cannot be undertaken without hope. Cases can take months to build, only to be decided in moments – but it is all worth the work, in the hopes that our clients are better off now than they were before. This is especially true in the areas of law that CAIR-CA specializes in: civil rights litigation and immigration legal services.