SAN FRANCISCO—City Administrator Carmen Chu today announced the appointment of Jorge Rivas as the new Executive Director of the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs (OCEIA). The son of Mexican immigrants, Rivas brings more than 15 years of experience in economic development and neighborhood services to helm OCEIA’s policy, compliance, grantmaking, and direct service initiatives.
OCEIA is an agency under the City Administrator’s Office that promotes civic participation, policies, and programs to improve the lives of immigrants, newcomers, and underserved communities who live and work in San Francisco.
“I am thrilled to welcome Jorge Rivas back to the City to lead the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs,” said City Administrator Carmen Chu. “Jorge has a deep history working in the City and in community, and as a son of immigrant parents, understands first-hand the struggles that many face when immigrating. Diversity and immigration have been a big part of our country’s history and success, and I know Jorge is deeply committed to ensure that continues in San Francisco.”
OCEIA fosters inclusive policies and assistance programs to support the full civic, economic, and linguistic integration of immigrants. The Office provides grants to community-based organizations to offer free immigration services, such as assistance with citizenship applications, connections to legal services, and financial support to pay for immigration application fees.
OCEIA also works to ensure fair access for residents with limited English skills. The Office provides resources and technical assistance to the Mayor’s Office, the Board of Supervisors, and departments citywide to support high quality, culturally competent, multilingual communication, and enforces the City’s Language Access Ordinance, recognized as the strongest local language law in the nation.
"I want to thank the City Administrator, Carmen Chu for trusting me with the tremendous responsibility of serving as the Executive Director of the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs. I am energized to continue serving our immigrant communities, our most vulnerable yet resilient, to build on the work of OCEIA and former Director Adrienne Pon,” said Rivas. “As the son of immigrant parents, I understand firsthand the fears and uncertainty the immigrant community experiences. There’s a lot of work ahead of us, and this requires integrity and an unwavering commitment to immigrant communities. Together, I earnestly believe that we can make San Francisco a more welcoming place for all to thrive."
Rivas previously worked for San Francisco’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development where he served as the Director of Invest in Neighborhoods, an interagency partnership to strengthen and revitalize neighborhood commercial districts. As part of the City’s COVID-19 response efforts, Rivas was instrumental in the development and implementation of programs to mitigate economic inequities exacerbated by COVID-19, including the deployment of over $24 million in financial support to vulnerable small business owners and their employees.
Rivas began his career working in the nonprofit sector, organizing immigrant non-English speaking business owners in Oakland to bring much-needed services and resources to their neighborhood. He currently serves as the Deputy Director at Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Bay Area, where he supports the preservation and production of affordable housing and advancement of inclusive economic opportunities for people of color and immigrants.
“I commend City Administrator Carmen Chu on the selection of Jorge Rivas to lead the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs,” said Malcolm Yeung, Executive Director of the Chinatown Community Development Center. “He’s the right person at the right time as we head into significant social and economic headwinds in the next few years. The insight Jorge gained as the former head of the Invest in Neighborhoods Initiative will serve him well as he leads OCEIA towards ensuring that immigrant and people of color communities have a voice in how the city needs to refashion itself in the upcoming years. Congratulations to Jorge but an even bigger congratulations to the communities of San Francisco. Jorge is a win for us.”
“I am very happy about Jorge Rivas joining OCEIA's outstanding team, as their new Executive Director. Based on past collaboration with him in prior roles with the city, I am confident he will continue to advance the work of this office, increasing opportunities for civic engagement citywide, and lifting the contributions of immigrants to our city's social, economic, cultural and civic fabric. It is also great to see a member of the city's Latinx community leading this office,” said Lariza Dugan Cuadra, Executive Director of CARECEN SF.
OCEIA also supports multilingual community safety for all through the Community Ambassadors Program. Community Ambassadors, wearing signature bright yellow jackets, provide a visible, non-law enforcement safety presence to assist and engage community members and visitors. Community Ambassador teams are tailored to the linguistic needs of the community and often live in the neighborhoods they serve, positioning them well to engage in community partnerships and support neighborhood programming and needs. Ambassadors receive robust trainings on violence prevention, de-escalation, trauma, substance use, mental health, and homelessness, are CPR & First Aid Certified, and are trained to administer life-saving NARCAN. In the last fiscal year, Community Ambassadors engaged in over 114,000 unique interactions, including over 35,000 wellness checks and 17,000 merchant visits.
Rivas’s parents immigrated from Mexico to California in the 1970’s where they work as migrant farmers in the San Joaquin Valley. He is the first in his family to receive a college degree, fluent in Spanish, and a proud member of the LGBTQ community. Rivas earned a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Masters of Planning from the University of Southern California. He begins as OCEIA’s Executive Director on January 17, 2023.