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2016 Diverse Community Leaders Award Honoree

Jan Nelson Meslin (Mission Viejo, CA)

Jan is devoted to ending the isolation and abuse of people in immigration detention.

As the Director of Social Change Development, a volunteer position with CIVIC (Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement), Jan devotes many hours working to end the isolation and abuse of people in immigration detention.

A retired educator, Jan found her passion for immigrant justice through her work with the local interfaith organizing group OCCCO (Orange County Community Organization). She made good friends there with people who were undocumented. Their stories of living in fear along with her Unitarian Universalist faith moved her into action.  In 2012, Jan and several from her congregation began visiting people detained at Musick Jail in Irvine, detained only for the civil offense of not having U.S. documents. The Friends of Orange County Detainees was born.

Jan soon committed to a larger network aimed at ending unjust and often profit-driven detention facilities throughout the country. She joined the leadership team for CIVIC in 2014. CIVIC’s mission is to end isolation of people in immigration detention through community led visitation programs, independent monitoring, spotlighting stories, and advocacy. CIVIC currently supports 45 visitation programs in some of the 250 detention centers where 34,000 people are detained.  They also help write and lobby for laws at the state and national level, and of course do what they can to highlight stories and get people released. Jan manages CIVIC’s Direct Support Fund where people in detention, those recently released or deported, and their families can receive grants.

Jan Nelson Meslin

Her efforts to educate the community coupled with her wide network of friends and colleagues provides her with support from people of faith, political activists, and new volunteers. She facilitates 4-day border issues immersion trips to Tijuana. She is also an Interfaith Witness, standing in silent witness with individuals being harassed because of their faith. And she works to bring healthcare to every person by co-chairing the Orange County Chapter of Health Care for All – CA, a grassroots group working for a single payer healthcare system.

Jan sees the intersectionality of all human rights issues and believes in the power of the people to heal our world.

About the Award

Our annual Diverse Community Leaders Award honors individuals and groups who have made extraordinary contributions to Orange County in human or civil rights.

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