Immigration activist tapped to lead local ACLU

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SAN DIEGO — After a nation-wide search for a new executive director, the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties went local, hiring immigration activist Norma Chávez-Peterson.

Screen Shot 2013-09-18 at 8.27.55 AMThe 39-year-old spent her first day on the job in a San Diego high school classroom.

She spoke in her native language, Spanish, about the fourth amendment, gay rights and the need for immigration reform, in a room filled with young men and women brought into the country illegally as children by their parents.

It’s an audience Chávez-Peterson is very familiar with, because she was one of them.

“I was undocumented,” said Chávez-Peterson, the daughter of a single mom who worked in the farm fields.

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 1.43.11 PMThe new ACLU executive director went to Chula Vista High School and is an SDSU graduate with 20 years of experience on immigration rights advocacy. She has worked numerous “get out the vote” campaigns.

“I bring those relationships, I bring that experience, I bring that vision,” said the political activist, who most recently worked with the ACLU to push comprehensive immigration reform in Congress, hoping to give others the same opportunities she’s had.

“I was a direct beneficiary from the last immigration reform in ‘86, so I know first hand what it is to come out of the shadows and for me to thrive and give and make this country better,” she said.

But as first Latina to ever lead the ACLU in San Diego says she promises not to let her personal perspective on immigration overshadow other causes.

“There’s a mess in our state prisons. We’re going to continue to work on that. We’re going to continue our work on LGBT issues. We have a statewide LGBT team that is prioritizing transgender rights,” she stressed.


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