About Us

The Citizenship Project is rooted in and around twelve immigrant communities in California’s rural coastal valleys, centered in the heart of the fresh vegetable industry, the Salinas Valley, and also moving with the harvest to the rural borderlands of California, Arizona and Mexico. Although our region is still dominated by conservative agribusiness interests, between 66% and 90% of the population in our communities are Mexican immigrants or their children. Overwhelmingly, they are from rural regions of Mexico with a fairly low level of education (averaging 4-8 years), and drawn to this area by the demand for labor in the region’s major industries of agriculture and food processing. Most have very low and seasonal incomes, and they are on average less literate, with less residential stability, weaker language skills and more likely to face other barriers to citizenship than other immigrant populations. They are more likely to under-use rather than utilize available social services. Over half are women. Over 80% are parents of U.S.-citizen children, and are concerned about their children's future. 

Our current groups, campaigns and programs include:
  • La Escuela de Libertad (Freedom School) a grassroots, volunteer-led ESL/citizenship and literacy adult school, staffed mainly by youth volunteers teaching their less literate elders. Their model, developed by and for farm workers, emphasizes learning about citizenship through civic action, and is earning recognition by other unions and community-based groups interested in implementing similar immigrant worker centers; 
  • La alianza por un manaña mejor (Alliance for a Better Tomorrow) a local group dedicated to non-partisan voter registration and education;
  • Ciudadanía Para Todos (Citizenship for All) is our organizing model of immigration and naturalization assistance that is free or very low-cost and accessible to all. We have trained over 2000 volunteers to help over 20,000 persons apply for U.S. citizenship and over 10,000 new citizens register to vote;
  • Promotores Community Partnership – along with the Center for Community Advocacy, the Central Coast Citizenship Project, provides health education and facilitates access to mental health services for un-served Latino adults, children and families throughout the county.

California produces one half of the nation's fresh vegetable crops, contains forty percent of its farm workers, and earns half of the twenty-seven billion dollars in farm sales. Nonetheless, its largely immigrant agricultural workforce does not share in the state’s wealth. The temporary and migratory nature of industrial farm labor, and the illegal immigration status of the majority of farm workers obliges them to accept notoriously poor wages, makes them extremely susceptible to abuses in labor practices, and ultimately forces them to live a shadow existence. At the same time, tightening of border controls reduces cross-border travel, making them a captive market and vulnerable to a variety of human rights abuses. 

The specific combination's of immigration and immigrant policies not only have had profound implications for the growth dynamics of California's agricultural industry; they have had widespread and long-term distributive-demographic effects on the state's rural communities and urban centers. Year-round, skilled agricultural labor has been replaced by temporary, unskilled workers, creating poor, Mexican colonias throughout the agricultural valleys of California. Today, farm workers average less than six months of farm work a year, bringing in poverty-level earnings of 7-10,000 dollars a year. California's agricultural expansion has not created "pockets of poverty", but widespread rural poverty and "pockets of wealth" where growers and operators live.

Subpages (1): History