By Joe Nelson, The Sun
Posted: 06/08/14, 5:34 PM PDT |

The American Civil Liberties Union is opening an office in San Bernardino, which will serve the Inland Empire region.

The ACLU of Southern California is finalizing the lease on its news space, but is not disclosing where the office is until the deal is closed, said Belinda Escobosa Helzer, director of the ACLU of Southern California’s Orange County and Inland Empire offices.

“We’re now expanding into the Inland Empire so we can continue to serve communities who have pressing civil rights concerns,” Escobosa Helzer said Friday.

Widespread poverty, poor education and high crime rates have fueled allegations of racial and economic inequality in the Inland Empire.

“There are a lot of statistics there about poverty and lack of access to education, so we’re going to hopefully fill the gap where other groups haven’t been able to,” Escobosa said. “We hope to bring the legal expertise with respect to civil rights and civil liberty issues.”

The office is expected to be up and running sometime in August, and will be staffed with an attorney and a community engagement and policy advocate, dealing mainly in the areas of voting rights, immigrant rights and police practices, Escobosa Helzer said.

“We’re still working on finalizing those hires. Definitely we are interested in having folks who know about the (Inland Empire) area, either by being residents of the area or who have worked in the area before,” Escobosa Helzer said. She said the San Bernardino office will also serve Riverside County.

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