The Fight Over Immigrants and Refugees Is Going to Intensify. Here's What Foundations Need to Do

Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Daranee Petsod op-ed on foundation response to immigrant and refugee policy changes

A year ago, more than 200 foundations from across the United States signed onto our joint statement in support of immigrants and refugees. This rare act of philanthropic solidarity transcended partisan politics, geography and issue area—and affirmed our nation’s highest ideals of fairness, freedom, justice, and opportunity.  

Following this defining moment, many foundations moved quickly from words to action, committing tens of millions of dollars in new funding to protect and defend immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers against seismic policy shifts that have shaken these and other vulnerable communities to the core.

Restrictive immigration policies that were promulgated in 2017 weaken fundamental rights, put the well-being of children and families at risk, strain our workforce, and undermine the contributions of immigrants and refugees to our society. They fray our social fabric, fuel suspicion and fear, and compromise our global leadership. And they reflect deep divisions and sharply conflicting visions of who we are and aspire to be as a nation.

If the first weeks in 2018 are any indication, hostility and intolerance will continue to drive policy debates this year, propelled by all forms of isms and phobias and polarizing rhetoric at the highest levels of government. We have already witnessed stepped-up border and interior enforcement, along with increased detention and deportation, affecting long-time U.S. residents, parents of U.S. citizens, refugees who fled war and persecution, and community leaders and activists. In addition, plans to reduce legal immigration, from family reunification to high-skilled employment to the diversity visa lottery, are on the horizon.

The outlook is dire, and philanthropic leadership is urgently needed. Foundations that dug deep in 2017 must dig deeper in 2018. Those who are new to immigration must inform themselves of the issues. And ultimately, all funders need to consider how immigration policy changes and an increasingly divided society will affect their funding goals and priorities.

Given this challenging landscape, what should philanthropy ...

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