Founded in 1920, the nonpartisan, nonprofit American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is today the nation’s premier public interest law firm and a formidable leader in the fight "to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.”

The ACLU national headquarters is based in New York City, with a federal legislative office in Washington, DC. The ACLU has a presence in all fifty states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. California is the only state that is home to three ACLU affiliates, the San Francisco-based ACLU of Northern California, Los Angeles-based ACLU of Southern California and the San Diego-based ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties (ACLU-SDIC). The three affiliates have regional offices in Sacramento, Fresno, Bakersfield, San Bernardino, Santa Ana and El Centro. They share a legislative lobbying office and coordinate other statewide impact work.

The ACLU works in the courts, in state legislatures and in communities. The organization litigates thousands of civil liberties cases annually; appears before the Supreme Court more often than any organization except the U.S. Justice Department; lobbies the U.S. Congress and state legislatures; and has extensive strategic community partnerships and education programs. This vital work is sustained by more than 1,200 staff, 1.8 million dues-paying members, 3.25 million online activists and 4 million social media followers nationwide.


The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties is a prominent force for the protection and expansion of fundamental rights in California’s second-most populous county (San Diego), its county with the highest percentage of Latino residents (85%) (Imperial), and the state’s southern borderlands.

Our mission is “To protect and expand fairness, equity, and freedom through community engagement, building power, policy advocacy, and impact litigation.” Our work is guided by a vision of a just and fair society in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential (from PolicyLink’s definition of “equity” its 2015 Equity Manifesto).

From the courtroom to the state legislature to city hall to the court of public opinion, ACLU-SDIC fights for equity on multiple fronts. Based in San Diego with an office in the Imperial Valley, our efforts are sustained by 36 staff, more than 13,000 card-carrying, dues-paying members, thousands of social media followers, and hundreds of volunteers and supporters.

We work hard to resolve deeply rooted social inequities that deny the full measure of civil rights and freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. We are grounded in an “integrated advocacy” approach that allows us to effectively leverage our legal, policy analysis and advocacy, strategic communications and organizing expertise to work with and within the region’s richly diverse communities to create a more just and fair society for us all.

Read about the History of the ACLU and the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties.


Advancing Equity

ACLU-SDIC’s fight for equity spans decades and issues. From winning a landmark Supreme Court decision on behalf of a Japanese American plaintiff in 1945 that established principles for future legal victories extending equal protection rights to African Americans and others, to educating and organizing community stakeholders to demand a more equitable County of San Diego budget in FY 2020, the future we demand ensures “...fair and just inclusion into a society in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential.” (PolicyLink 2015 Equity Manifesto)

We fight for education equity, housing equity, LGBTQ rights and reproductive justice. We work every day to challenge and eradicate systemic racism, white supremacy, bigotry, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. And we work to vigorously protect and advance for all people the freedom of speech and expression, and the freedom to peacefully assemble and to protest. Our democracy is stronger when we engage, hear and expose divergent views.  

Immigrants’ Rights

The story of our affiliate is replete with major struggles to assert immigrants’ rights in our region. From our first days as the ACLU San Diego Committee, we have steadfastly defended and expanded the civil liberties of immigrants and refugees in California’s two southernmost counties. We work to ensure the fundamental protections of due process and equal protection embodied in our Constitution and Bill of Rights apply to every person, regardless of immigration status.

We litigate, advocate, educate, organize and agitate to protect immigrants from unconstitutional, discriminatory actions by the federal government and local municipalities and agencies. We hold government agencies accountable for the unjust and inhumane treatment of undocumented immigrants in their custody. We fight to protect the rights of people seeking asylum and to ensure them basic humanitarian assistance. We partner with community and faith-based organizations to optimize our collective capacities to defend immigrant communities. We challenge unlawful immigration enforcement policies and practices, and we champion legislation to protect people’s civil rights for the benefit of all Californians.

Read more about our Immigrants’ Rights work.

Police Practices

For a century, the ACLU has been a champion for the establishment and enforcement of constitutional standards in our nation’s justice systems to safeguard individuals against abuses of power by law enforcement. Even so, systematic inequities arising from an array of racially-biased laws, policies and practices continue to manifest in the criminalization, over-policing and mass incarceration of people of color. People with low income, unsheltered people, and people living with mental health and substance abuse needs are similarly vulnerable.
ACLU-SDIC advocates for law enforcement accountability and transparency. We advocate to end to racial profiling, selective enforcement, and the criminalization of young people of color. Working in coalition with community partners as well as with individuals and families affected by police misconduct, we champion legislation and policies that seek to reduce the presence of police in communities in favor of non-law enforcement solutions.

Read more about our Police Practices work.

Organizing for Strong, Engaged Communities

While the ACLU traditionally and primarily addresses civil liberties violations through the courts and in legislatures, ACLU-SDIC understand the importance of being community-connected and collaborative to achieve social change that is both empowering and sustainable over time. We work to raise awareness of the intersectionality of people’s individual struggles for social, political and economic equity; to connect issues to our core values; and to build political power in impacted communities (geographic and cultural) to achieve unifying solutions in relationship with people directly impacted by systemic inequities.  

Read more about our Organizing work.