An prime objective of the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) has been the century-long mission to protect the First Amendment — the right to free expression. Abdi Soltani, ACLU’s Northern California Director, sees the First Amendment as “an incredibly important set of principles”. Soltani is also dedicated to rights and protections for immigrants and undocumented residents, tirelessly guiding the ACLU of Northern California towards defending those rights.
During his tenure as Director of the ACLU of Northern California Abdi Soltani has extended organizational activity further into the Central Valley, adding an office in Fresno. The focus of the expanded organization is to fight anti-immigration policies, push towards bail reform and assist in decreasing the number of people behind bars.
Soltani specifies one issue on which the Northern California ACLU is focused to be a long-term lawsuit against Fresno County that cites inadequate access to counsel for those facing criminal charges. Another concern that the organization is contending, with significant progress through state legislation, targets unaffordable bails for those incarcerated in California jails.
In addition and as a result of the national ‘muslim ban’ with Iran as one target, Soltani has received numerous appeals from Iranian immigrants.
“I was getting phone calls, text messages and emails from Iranians all over the world,” Soltani stated in a recent interview. “Either Iranians in America fearful of losing a visa, and people whose visas were about to expire and wouldn’t have anywhere to safely go to, and people whose grandparents were stranded en route at European airports. So here I am, an ACLU director, and here I am, an Iranian-American, and those two merged right into one thing.”
Abdi Soltani is an Iranian-American who was born in Iran, and immigrated to the U.S. when he was 9 years old. He grew up in Massachusetts and came to California to attend Stanford University.
“I got interested in the ACLU working as a community organizer working on civil rights,” says Soltani. “Working as an organizer, our whole job was to build power among low-income people and communities of color, including youth. One form of power in our society is legal power, and I liked the idea that they should have access to legal power.”
When Soltani joined the ACLU as executive director, he had already worked alongside the organization for over a decade. Fresno became a priority location for Soltani since previously, as a community organizer, he had worked against the Fresno raid of homeless camps and the destruction of homeless people’s property, including medication and personal mementos.
A high respect and appreciation of poetry and the arts as proponents of human rights and the value of the human experience places artistic expression high on Soltani’s list of contributors to societal principles.
For more information on Abdi Soltani and the ACLU of Northern California, refer to TRUTHDIG: What One ACLU Director Is Doing to Protect Rights, from which this information was derived.