If Not Now, When? A Call to Action on Immigration for California Philanthropy

Open Letter

Since early 2017, the Trump Administration has issued a series of executive actions—from the travel ban to ramped-up enforcement—aimed at curtailing both authorized and unauthorized immigration; weakening protections for asylum seekers, including unaccompanied children; and reducing our longstanding commitment to refugee protection and resettlement. Most recently, the administration terminated Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), stripping nearly 800,000 individuals, including 223,000 Californians, of work authorization and protection from deportation.

 

These policies are having a far-reaching impact in California, where one in four Californians is an immigrant; one out of every two children in our state has at least one immigrant parent; and the vast majority of foreign-born Californians live in families whose members have different immigration statuses. Escalating anti-immigrant vitriol and heightened criminalization of immigrants have also fueled uncertainty and fear among residents across our state.

 

Philanthropy’s response

 

Since November 2016, the undersigned foundations have come together at the CEO and staff levels to discuss funding needs and coordinate strategies to defend and protect the rights of immigrants in California. Collectively, we have deployed more than $40 million1 in new funding across the state to support a range of rapid-response efforts. Seventy percent of the grants went to support specific projects, while 27 percent were for general support. Reflecting community needs, grants to support legal services and Know Your Rights education, received the largest share of funding (49 percent combined). Our grants had wide geographic reach, but certain regions clearly need more resources given the size of their immigrant population, limited service capacity, and/or region-specific challenges.  

 

 

Pressing needs  

 

While the infusion of resources from our foundations, other philanthropies, as well as the public sector has helped address immediate crises, our analysis finds insufficient long-term capacity among immigrant-serving organizations across the state, including persistent funding gaps in regions such as the Inland Valley, the Central Valley, the Central Coast, and San Diego and Imperial counties, among others. Unrelenting attacks on immigrants and refugees will only exacerbate these needs and gaps and will require support from a broader cross section of philanthropy.

 

 

What you can do

 

As the state with the largest foreign-born population in the country, we cannot afford to stand on the sidelines. Our immigrant and refugee friends, neighbors, co-workers, and community leaders are part of our state’s identity, and their continued contributions are essential in maintaining a strong economic, civic, and cultural fabric.

 

Despite an increasingly dynamic, complex, and urgent context, we need to expand our leadership as California funders. We need to understand the implications of changing federal immigration policies on each of our areas of giving. And, we need to address pressing human needs and support long-term strategies that will ultimately improve the lives of all Californians. The success of our grantmaking—and the future of our state—depend on it.

 

1 Between November 2016 and June 2017.