Imperial Valley

The ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties (ACLU-SDIC) is one of three ACLU affiliates serving the people of California. The three California affiliates collectively hold a lobbying office in Sacramento, ACLU California Action.

Based in San Diego, the ACLU-SDIC has an office in El Centro to support the Imperial Valley community.

The ACLU-SDIC's mission is to protect and expand fairness, equity and freedom in our region. We do this through civic engagement, building power, policy advocacy and impact litigation. We value the importance of being connected to the community and working in collaboration to achieve social change. The ACLU-SDIC's 90-year legacy of organizing, advocacy and litigation was first focused in Imperial Valley.

Our story began in 1933 with the founding of the ACLU San Diego Committee by Helen Marston Beardsley, an anti-war activist, educator, and member of the ACLU of Southern California board of directors.  

While defending the rights of Imperial Valley farmworkers facing violent oppression for daring to organize and strike, ACLU representatives — including Marston Beardsley — were chased and assaulted by vigilante mobs. When the ACLU lawyer who secured a court order protecting the farmworkers’ right to organize was kidnapped, beaten and left for dead in the desert, Marston Beardsley contacted President Franklin D. Roosevelt and others, pressuring the FDR administration to act. A federal investigation followed that substantiated the ACLU’s charges of abuse by growers, law enforcement and vigilantes, and led to important protections for farmworkers in our nation’s early fights for unionization.

In 1956, the San Diego Committee became the San Diego Chapter of the ACLU of Southern California with its own board of directors. In 1988, the San Diego Chapter secured National ACLU approval for independence from the Southern California affiliate and was reconstituted as the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties. In 2018, the ACLU-SDIC opened a second office in El Centro, California — in the Imperial Valley where our story began.

Today, the ACLU Foundation of San Diego & Imperial Counties (“ACLUF-SDIC”), the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that does our litigation and public education work, and the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties (“ACLU-SDIC”), the 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization that does our legislative lobbying work, are a prominent force for the protection and expansion of fundamental rights in San Diego and Imperial Counties.

We have a local team of three from Imperial Valley in our El Centro office providing public education, holding government accountable and supporting local organizations to create a more just, fair and equitable region for us all.