In the early 1980’s, Luz Maria and Antonio Ayala were new Americans working to build a new home in Perris, CA. They had organized with the community in Michoacan Mexico and then with the United Farmworkers and Civil Rights Movement in Los Angeles before moving to the rural Inland Empire to grow their family.
They began to see many injustices impacting their neighbors in the Inland Empire in how they were treated harshly by employers, profiled by police and immigration, and ignored by politicians. In response, they founded TODEC to help their fellow recent immigrants learn English, secure citizenship, and create new connections in their chosen community.
Soon, our early leaders recognized that their growing community at TODEC had great potential as a convener and organizer for community empowerment. Our first major organizing win- the passage of the immigration bill in 1986 that granted amnesty to nearly 3 million new Americans- sparked our dedication to using TODEC as a hub for facilitating community organizing and ongoing power building.
They also recognized that too many people couldn’t take advantage of the new Reagan Amnesty policy because access to legal support and the education required to pass the civics and English exams were too expensive. TODEC knew they could fill in the gaps and started a free legal clinic, free classes, and civic engagement programs that would help families attain their status and become engaged and active as new Americans. Ever since, when our community tells us what they need, whether its English as a second language classes or greater protections for renters, we work together to meet them.