The Southeast Los Angeles (SELA) Collaborative is a network of organizations working together to strengthen the capacity of the nonprofit sector and increase civic engagement in Southeast LA. Founded in 2011 by eleven core organizations, the Collaborative seeks to revitalize the communities of Bell, Bell Gardens, Cudahy, Florence-Firestone, Huntington Park, Lynwood, Maywood, South Gate, Vernon, and Walnut Park.
Our “Collaborative Spotlight” series highlights the work and impact of our individual Collaborative members, each of whom have a long history of providing service to the Southeast Los Angeles (SELA) region and advocating for its community members. In today’s post, we highlight the work and impact of COFEM.
Empowering Immigrant Communities Across California
Founded 17 years ago, COFEM is a community-based umbrella organization comprised of groups of people who share ideas and create opportunities for Latino immigrants in North America, specifically California. COFEM represents 11 organizations (or “federations”), which include people from specific states of the Mexican Republic. These federations help to nurture enduring cultural values through broad support to the Mexican community at the bi-national level. Through economic and social development projects, strategic civic participation, and cultural and social events , the federations have strengthened their bases. These federations have the opportunity to wield significant political power though their growing memberships.
Promoting Civic Engagement in Immigrant Communities
Key among COFEM various programs are its civic engagement and advocacy work. The federations that comprise COFEM can organize and mobilize the Latin American immigrant community on a large scale, and they have done so to support and protect key initiatives and legislation over the years. In particular, COFEM has been a passionate advocate for comprehensive immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship, implementation of the Executive Deferred Action (DACA) program, and other key policies and programs that increase access and services for immigrants. Not limited to just citizenship, COFEM’s advocacy efforts have also included support for health and environmentalism initiatives, among others. Through these programs and initiatives, COFEM has contributed to key legislative and policy victories that have empowered and improved the lives of Latino immigrant residents in communities across Los Angeles and California.
In addition to its critical, powerful advocacy work, COFEM also provides many other services that benefit immigrant populations. These programs and services cover a wide range of issue areas, including education, naturalization, health, environmentalism, and more. Due to the high Latino population in SELA and the significant number of non-citizen immigrants living in the area, our communities have often been beneficiaries of COFEM’s programs. For example, after the DACA executive decision in 2012, COFEM hosted a series of free clinics where DACA applicants had the opportunity to meet with trained volunteers who helped them with the application and evidentiary materials. The clients even had the opportunity to meet with attorneys and ask them questions about their specific cases. Southeast Los Angeles was a key focus area for these clinics, as COFEM recognized the high need for resources like these in SELA communities. This is only one example of the powerful initiatives COFEM has launched over the years that have benefited SELA’s residents immeasurably.
Collaborating to Inform and Engage Southeast Los Angeles
COFEM’s strong focus on advocacy work and its recognition of the high need for civic engagement in Southeast Los Angeles sparked its interest in joining the SELA Collaborative. “SELA has always been a key area for us due it being predominantly Latino and a common destination for Mexican immigrants,” says COFEM Executive Director Anabella Bastida. “So we knew it could be very powerful if we added our voice, experience, and expertise to this group of passionate community organizations. That made the decision to join easy for us.”
As part of the Collaborative’s steering committee, COFEM delegates Saul Rios (Program Coordinator for Immigrant Integration) and Maria Bastida (Director of Development) contribute their extensive experience in civic engagement and help ensure our work is grounded in the voice of our constituents. Additionally, COFEM’s experience working across varied issue areas means they contribute key insights across all of the Collaborative’s programs.
Thanks to its advocacy and civic engagement initiatives, COFEM has served as a powerful force for social change for Latino immigrants for over 17 years. Additionally, its range of other services, which cover areas such as health environmentalism and civic participation, have ensured that immigrant families have access to the tools and resources they need in order to improve conditions in their own communities and make their voices heard on important issues. This combination has made them a premier organization working for change in our communities. We look forward to continuing our partnership with COFEM as we work to inform, engage, and empower the SELA communities!–
COFEM Delegates in the Collaborative
Director of Development
Want to Learn More or Volunteer?
If you are interesting in volunteering for COFEM, please visit their opportunities page in English or Spanish. COFEM’s citizenship workshop in particular is often in need of volunteers to provide this great free service to the community.