The Pomona Economic Opportunity Center

Immigrant families belong together. The Pomona Economic Opportunity Center is committed to upholding the due process and civil rights of all immigrants, asylees and refugees.

The Pomona Economic Opportunity Center (P.E.O.C.) was founded on the mission to provide an opportunity for day laborers, household workers, and other low-wage, immigrant workers in Pomona and the Inland Empire find safe work at a fair wage, including expanding a person’s employability by teaching new trades and skills. Beyond helping secure employment, they show people how to advocate for themselves and shape policies that impact their lives and use these organizing skills to help improve the overall conditions for all immigrant workers.

Then hundreds of unaccompanied migrant children began arriving in Pomona.

Children ranging in ages from 7 to 14 years old who had overcome unfathomable hardships traveling alone, began arriving at Fairplex in early May of this year. The children who arrived unaccompanied at the U.S.-Mexico border were to be temporarily housed at Fairplex, which was designated a federal Emergency Intake Site (E.I.S.), as they waited to be reunited with family or placed with sponsors.

A powerful advocate for immigrants, the Pomona Economic Opportunity Center immediately mobilized.

P.E.O.C. quickly helped ensure the children were treated with the highest standard of care and reunified quickly with their families. It put its community organizing skills to work developing partnerships with federal agencies, Fairplex, the Pomona Community Foundation, and fellow community organizations like the Inland Coalition for Immigrant Justice, to demonstrate how local communities can help ensure a welcoming and safe environment for newcomers and vulnerable children.

P.E.O.C. demonstrates tremendous commitment and compassion in its work to support youth transitioning out of the Pomona E.I.S. site and work to strengthen long-term local infrastructure and systems serving unaccompanied children. P.E.O.C. supported over 70 youth who turned 18 years old while housed at the E.I.S. and who had been processed by ICE and cleared for release. These youth were provided with lodging, food and flights to reunite with family members across the country.

The Department of Health and Human Services recently announced that the Emergency Intake Site at Fairplex will be closing in November 2021, and children crossing into the United States will be able to be housed in permanent shelters. In total, the Fairplex Pomona E.I.S. served over 10,000 children and helped reunify over 7,500 of these youth.

“We support and welcome all immigrants. These vulnerable children need to be reunited with their families as soon as possible, and we need to come together to support their long-term well-being,” said Fernando Romero, P.E.O.C. executive director. “We can no longer accept band aid emergency responses. We have the capacity and the moral obligation as a nation to create a humane and functioning asylum system.”

Black Equity Initiative of the Inland Empire

Members of the Black Equity Initiative protest racist statements from a top San Bernardino County district attorney.

The killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor ignited a national reckoning with systemic racism and the ways it has fueled police violence and exacerbated health disparities amid the Covid-19 pandemic. This reckoning is especially important in the Inland Empire, home to the third largest Black population in California, 15 jails and prisons, and a visible white nationalist presence that violently opposes Black lives. We are proud to highlight the critically-important work of our partner, the Black Equity Initiative of the Inland Empire (B.E.I.-I.E.), which strives to improve social conditions in the region through empowerment, education and policy change.

Historically, a steady migration out of Los Angeles and into the Inland Empire, coupled with deep-rooted, anti-Black racism, have produced soaring rates of high school dropout, unemployment, homelessness and incarceration among Black communities. The B.E.I.-I.E. has worked tirelessly for over a decade to improve these conditions.

Established in 2014, B.E.I.-I.E.’s origins actually date back to 2004, when community members and educational leaders successfully advocated for the establishment of one of the few policies in the region charged with supporting the academic needs of African American students throughout the San Bernardino Unified School District.

Since then, B.E.I.-I.E. has built deep relationships—both within its network and countywide—and today partners with 20 Black-led and-serving member organizations. B.E.I.-I.E. works on such issues as criminal justice reform, educational attainment, youth development and empowerment and health and well-being.

Under the B.E.I.-I.E. umbrella, its members have achieved several significant victories towards advancing racial equity in the Inland Empire. Recent “wins” include:

  • Organizing to decriminalize youth in schools by changing district policy on arrest, citation and suspension (which contributed to a countywide reduction in youth arrests/citations by nearly 90%);
  • Pushing San Bernardino County as the first in California to declare racism a public health crisis;
  • Calling for greater accountability in the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office, resulting in the creation of a Community Commission and increased public/D.A. engagement.

“These achievements are a testament to the growing strength of a Black power-building ecosystem in the region,” said Pastor Samuel Casey, Founder and Executive Director of Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement and co-convener/member of B.E.I.-I.E. “They also underscore the Inland Empire’s place as a center of innovation when it comes to racial equity.”

Empowering Pacific Islander Communities

Judith Foisia

Judith Foisia
Shares Vaccination Card

Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities have been deeply impacted by the pandemic, facing economic impacts, sickness, and death at high levels that exposed deep and ongoing inequities. We are proud to highlight the work of Empowering Pacific Islander Communities (E.P.I.C.), a partner based in Los Angeles that is doing critical work to respond to immediate needs while building community leadership.

Established in 2009, E.P.I.C.’s mission is to advance social justice by engaging Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander (N.H.P.I.) communities in culture-centered advocacy, research, and leadership development. E.P.I.C. is led by Executive Director Tavae Samuelu who has served in that capacity since 2017. E.P.I.C. actively serves and engages Native Hawaiians, Samoans, Tongans, Chamoru, Compact of Free Association migrants, Palauans, and Fijians in three ways. First, its Pacific Islander Leaders of Tomorrow (P.I.L.O.T.) leadership development program provides culture-based and community-focused empowerment and development training geared to increase the number of emerging young leaders in the NHPI community. Second, it advocates to reduce barriers for N.H.P.I. And lastly, it performs critical disaggregated research on national and local issues that impact N.H.P.I. communities.

The N.H.P.I. community has been ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic because of historic racism, poverty, and disinvestment. Many in this community are essential workers, live in multi-generational households, and a significant number experience high rates of diabetes, heart disease, and other pre-existing conditions. As a result, N.H.P.I.s have the highest rates of COVID-19 infection and mortality in California.

“When California first shut down mid-March, there was no demographic data available to us,” said Ms. Samuelu. “When data became available, it showed that health disparities were severe.” She added that this crisis led to the formation of the National Pacific Islander COVID-19 Response Team, a national group of N.H.P.I. researchers, health experts, community leaders and advocates, formed to plan and implement infrastructure for informing and supporting families and communities about COVID-19.

As one of the few organizations led by and for N.H.P.I.s, E.P.I.C. responded by shifting its programs and services to provide food and other critical aid to the community. It has also emerged as a beacon of health education for N.H.P.I.s, providing the community with culturally competent information about how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and how to access vaccines.