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California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance: A Group Fighting For Immigrant Youth Rights

Cassidy Chansirik
Cassidy Chansirik Student at U.C. Berkeley
Hi! I'm Cassidy, a rising junior majoring in Legal Studies at U.C. Berkeley who is passionate about the law, helping others, and all things coffee!
California Immigrant Youth Justice
For Itzel Calvo, an Ethnic Studies major at U.C. Berkeley, working with her community has been as much part of her routine as brushing her teeth. 

After witnessing numerous immigration deportations in her neighborhood, Calvo knew that she had to get involved immediately. 

“As a DACA recipient, I was able to get protection for myself. But not everyone is able to get this protection. I kept thinking to myself, how can I help others?” says Calvo. 

That’s when Calvo decided to join the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance (CIYJA). At CIYJA, Calvo is a Deportation Defense Coordinator. As a Coordinator, Calvo uses social media to create public defense campaigns. Additionally, she creates partnerships with nonprofit immigration attorneys to work with individuals in detention who have prior convictions. 

“The work I do is known as deportation defense. Put short, this means that I help individuals during the legal process as they fight to stay in this country,” says Calvo. 

Calvo, who has been in her role for two years, says,  "Deportation defense can be a lonely process for those inside detention centers."

Because of CIYJA, Calvo is able to talk with individuals in detention centers and also acts as a facilitator between nonprofit immigration attorneys. By breaking down legal jargon and confusing processes, Calvo is able to help clients understand that they are not alone as they navigate immigration proceedings. 

In addition to legal barriers, a number of individuals have language barriers. Calvo says, “People often speak specific dialects and have indigenous languages that there are no interpreters for. Some words get lost in translation in court, especially because many words have different meanings.”

“For so long, deportation defense was considered such a taboo topic to talk about. But now, as more information is spread across social media, people want to get involved and show their community support,” Calvo says. “To know that I am a part of this movement, and a part of someone’s support system means so much to me.”

Community support is crucial for deportation defense.

"During immigration proceedings, an attorney needs to show that the person detained is not a flight risk, not a danger to the community, and has good moral character. Through
CIYJA, we are able to demonstrate this community support. By going to immigration court hearings and packing the courts, we’re able to show the judge that a detainee is loved by their community,” says Calvo. 

For those looking to get involved, Calvo suggests looking for more resources at, and on the CIYJA Instagram and Facebook page.

“On our Instagram page, we post our public campaigns and phone banking materials. We also post stories about individuals in detention, and short information clips about pending legislation. Especially now during COVID, social media is how we share our most up-to-date information.”

Below, you can see some of the public campaigns that CIYJA posts on their social media platforms. If you’d like to become more involved in deportation defense, contact them for more information here

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