The California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR CA), in conjunction with Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (Advancing Justice-LA), issued a Public Records Act (PRA) Request to the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) this month, demanding transparency about a NonProfit Pilot Grant Program, which awarded $624,824 in grant funds to five different nonprofits across the state to implement surveillance programs.
Each nonprofit is eligible to receive up to $125,000 for its involvement in the so-called Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) and Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) programs. CVE and PVE are federal counterterrorism programs premised on the false assumption that certain communities, most notably those with Muslim, refugee, African-American and Latinx members, are more prone to “radicalization” and violence. According to Cal OES, the funding originated from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
In August, after more than two years of advocacy with the L.A. City Council and the mayor’s office, a coalition of Los Angeles-based civil rights and community organizations, including CAIR-LA and Advancing Justice-LA, successfully persuaded the L.A. mayor’s office to decline federal funding from DHS to implement CVE in Los Angeles. Like CVE, Cal OES has stated that PVE will take a so-called “community-led” approach to “behavioral surveillance,” relying on community groups to root out extremists under the guise of providing mental health and social services.
“The Governor’s PVE Pilot program feels eerily similar to the CVE program being implemented by the Trump administration, but what is even more concerning about PVE is its focus on K-12 youth,” said CAIR-LA Civil Rights Managing Attorney Marwa Rifahie. “We demand to know more about PVE and how the state intends to implement such programs through the non-profit grantees across the state.”
CAIR-SFBA Legal Fellow Sally Horna added, “to the untrained eye, PVE and the programs it wants to support seem like a great idea. We would be hard pressed to find objection to mental health services, youth support, or anti-hate education programs. While these programs fill a need in their respective communities, they should not be supported and funded under the umbrella of anti-terrorism programs like CVE and PVE. We need more information on what these programs entail and we need to hold our elected officials accountable when programs jeopardize vulnerable communities.”
Cal OES’ PVE grant program by all appearances is modeled in the same way CVE grant programs operate by offering funding to community organizations, usually serving vulnerable communities, with the understanding that there are strings attached to the funding in the form of monitoring behavior and activities and collecting and sharing intelligence.
“As an organization committed to expanding inclusion of and integrating our diverse racial and religious communities, we strongly oppose programs like CVE that unfairly stereotype and stigmatize American Muslim and other immigrant and black and brown communities,” said Advancing Justice-LA Litigation Director Laboni Hoq. “California has been at the forefront of resisting anti-immigrant and divisive policies and should be at the forefront of resisting federal policies like CVE. We urge the state to continue resisting injustice by refusing to partner with the Trump administration and DHS, who has continued to promote a white supremacist agenda of which CVE is just one part.”