In the last 30 years, Orange County, California has been ground zero for some of the most anti-immigrant policies in the nation like Proposition 187, police/ICE collaborations, and anti-day laborer ordinances. At the same time, it has also seen the rise of a bold immigrant rights movement that has shaped the county in the last 10 years through organizing, mass mobilizations and political work.
The county’s demographics are also changing, with fast growing Asian and Latinx populations that have been systematically divided but face similar issues on immigration, housing, economic justice and discrimination. Anti-immigrant and right wing forces in Orange County have pitted Asian and Latinx communities against each other by scapegoating undocumented immigrants, most recently in 2018, when local elected officials colluded with hate and white supremacist groups to push anti-Sanctuary ordinances and resolutions in jurisdictions with large immigrant and refugee communities like Fullerton, Westminster, Irvine, Costa Mesa, Los Alamitos, Huntington Beach and the County Board of Supervisors. This led to the rise of the Defend Sanctuary movement, which was led by a multi-racial coalition of immigrant and refugee groups that mobilized hundreds of people in each of those jurisdictions to fight back against these attacks.
Orange County has become in recent years a key political battleground county for the state and the country, oftentimes shaping the national political discourse. Powerbuilding organizations and social movements play an important role in leading a progressive political shift in Orange County that has national implications.
The Harbor Institute for Immigrant and Economic Justice (HI) was established in 2020 to advance a progressive immigrant and economic justice agenda, build multiracial and class solidarity among immigrant and refugee communities, and increase the capacity of power building organizations and movements to advance progressive public policies in Orange County. HI was founded by a cross-disciplinary advisory committee composed of academics, movement leaders and organizations that have been in the frontlines advancing a pro-immigrant and pro-worker agenda. We are rooted in power building and strategic organizing, our approach is bringing together policy experts and community leaders to support campaigns and creative interventions that create conditions for long-term systemic and political change.
The Harbor Institute is dedicated to advancing a progressive immigrant and economic justice agenda and political transformation throughout Orange County via strategic movement building, research and policy development, and advocacy. We serve as a resource for powerbuilding organizations, grassroots leaders, and policymakers who are committed to long-term, county-wide structural transformations that advance justice and solidarity among working-class immigrant and refugee communities.
We envision an Orange County in which working-class immigrant and refugee communities experience safe, healthy, and prosperous lives built from the power and longevity of multiracial solidarity.
Building Immigrant and Economic Justice: Strengthening the leadership development, organizing, and political power of working class immigrant communities in Orange County.
Movement Building & Strategic Interventions: Building synergy with powerbuilding progressive organizations to generate conditions for organizing and political change through strategic interventions.
Multiracial Solidarity and Justice: Working towards multiracial solidarity by building from each communities’ history, culture and struggles to advance systemic change and justice.
Engaging in Movement-Grounded Research : Developing multimethod research, narrative strategy, and policy analysis that support on-the-ground organizations in building movements and multiracial solidarity.
Local to National Amplification: Generating and amplifying strategies that can connect local perspective to national issues.