Caliph Assagai has been engaged in policy advocacy for over 10 years, working in the areas of juvenile and criminal justice, mental health, higher education, transportation and land use, food access and sustainable development.
Before forming Public Interest Advocacy, Caliph served as the Legislation and Public Policy Director at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) California, where he developed and oversaw NAMI California’s Advocacy Department. Caliph developed and executed NAMI California’s state budget, legislative and regulatory policy agenda and directed their grassroots advocacy efforts.
Prior to his tenure at NAMI California, Caliph served as Advocacy Manager at Ubuntu Green, a non-profit organization focused on environmental justice, land use, and sustainable development, where he gained an intimate understanding of policy making at the local level. Caliph worked closely with community organizations, members of the Sacramento City Council and Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, as well as City and County staff, on a variety of transportation and land use projects in furtherance of residents’ goals.
Caliph is a graduate of University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law’s Class of 2012, where he earned specializations in Public Interest Law and Policy and Critical Race Studies. As a law student, Caliph was honored to be selected as the National Bar Institute's Public Service Fellow. During law school, Caliph gained legal experience through providing direct services to low-income individuals at Legal Services of Northern California on land use and housing issues; assisting with the representation of indigent defendants at the Los Angeles County Public Defenders Office; and assisting with legal research for the impact ligation project at Public Counsel Law Center.
Before attending law school, Caliph served as a Legislative Aide for Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, where he covered transportation, education and public safety issues, in addition to staffing Assemblywoman Skinner on the Public Safety Committee. He gained critical experience in local transportation policy while serving on Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson’s Transition Team, where he was the primary drafter and editor of a “White Paper” on Transportation Policy.
Caliph gained an intimate understanding of federal policy and the federal policy making process while serving as the State-Federal Relations Fellowship with the California Institute for Federal Policy Research (California Institute) in Washington, D.C.. In this role, Caliph provided legislative analyses and authored articles for the California Congressional Delegation on legislation impacting California related to transportation, housing, climate change and education. Before working with the California Institute, Caliph served as a Senate Fellow with California State Senator Leland Y. Yee, Ph.D., where he worked on juvenile justice, public safety, transportation and human services issues.
Caliph attended UC Davis where he served as the Associated Students of UC Davis (ASUCD) President, representing 23,000 students and lobbying the legislature and Davis City Council on behalf of the student body.