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The Central Coast Citizenship Project was started by the Salinas Teamsters Union Local 890 in 1994 after Proposition 187 was passed in California. The Citizenship Project originally aimed to help union members and their families become active participants in the union and public life more generally. Over the next several years the Project broadened and deepened its work though a participatory research project. In response to regressive new federal immigration and welfare laws in August 1996, and recognizing that there were no other resources for immigrant rights in the communities where we worked, the Project’s board decided to change our focus from “union members and their families” to whole communities, with greatest emphasis placed on the elderly and disabled and very poor families most affected by those laws.  In a series of campaigns for immigrant and worker rights, we tied immigration and naturalization assistance to organization-building and leadership development in the defense of the rights of people in all citizenship statuses.

Since 1995, the Citizenship Project has operated out of a storefront headquarters in Salinas California. Over these years, the Project has developed a network of grassroots immigrantself-help organizations including not only organized and unorganized workers but also an ex-bracero organization, an immigrant youth community service and leadership development program, an immigrant women rights’ group, an Escuela de Libertad or Freedom School.

The Project helped win some challenging campaigns, including the Basic strike of 1999-2001,the immigrant youths’ campaign for higher education rights, and the SEIU Santa Cruz county workers strike of 2002. May 2006 community call for immigration reform in the process, activists at the Project developed ways to integrate immigrant assistance and labor-community organizing, and other methods for “organizing citizenship“.