It has been a difficult and challenging first few months of the year. The emergence of the Omicron variant in late 2021 sent Covid-19 infection rates skyrocketing and resulted in a temporary return to the early restrictions of the pandemic. Elected officials in Florida, Texas, and elsewhere have proposed or passed cruel and dangerous transphobic and homophobic legislation targeting young people. Worsening climate predictions continue unbated, and an urgent, coherent, and collective response from nation-states seems impossible. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has resulted in the displacement of more than three million refugees and edges the world closer to a global war. As we face these real and existential global and national threats daily, many of us are dealing with grief and trauma in our personal lives.
Modern life does not readily present spaces for healing, grieving, and community building in the face of this complex web of oppression, trauma, and injustice. In my experience, facing such difficulties with clarity, compassion, and certainty cannot be done in isolation—not one person, one organization, or one movement can face these challenges alone. Instead, it requires both radical collaboration and collective spaces for deepened learning and understanding. In the words of adrienne maree brown, “How do we turn our collective full-bodied intelligence towards collaboration, if that is the way we will survive?”
To that end, GCIR is responding to these complex challenges by leaning into what it does best: designing learning spaces for political education that center anti-racism, internationalism, and the leadership of affected communities; creating spaces for community building and connection; and providing the most relevant and timely analysis on the political, cultural, economic, and social conditions and issues impacting immigrants and refugees.
- California Dignity for Families Fund Learning Series
This month, we launched a monthly roundtable discussion centering invisibilized communities and often neglected topics within the migrant justice movement. The series—designed by Ola Osaze, Fund Advisory Committee member and former director of Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project—examines, among other things, queerness and migration, the intersection between disability justice and immigrant rights, and the interplay between imperialism and forced migration.
- GCIR’s 2022 National Convening
In May, our biennial convening will launch in Houston. The foremost gathering in philanthropy on immigrant and refugee issues, the convening brings together the sector’s leading voices and advocates with the aim of giving funders new tools and renewed enthusiasm to guide their immigrant- and refugee-related grantmaking. We will be uplifting leaders and organizations that have been historically excluded from the immigration funding space, including disability justice advocates, trans migrants, Black immigrant leaders, Indigenous migrant leaders, and youth activists. We are also excited to amplify the work of Houston and Texas leaders and organizers who are leading the charge to build a just and inclusive Texas even amid hostile and oppressive state and local leadership.
- Responding to the War in Ukraine
As the war in Ukraine continues, the GCIR team has been monitoring how the field is mobilizing to support refugees from Ukraine over the next few months, knowing that needs will continue to evolve over the coming years. To respond to urgent humanitarian needs on the ground in Europe, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy and Urgent Action Fund are in direct touch with organizations in Ukraine. Both have rapid response funds mobilizing humanitarian aid and other resources within Ukraine.
Earlier this month, the European Commission instituted their temporary protection directive for the first time in more than 20 years to grant Ukrainians immediate protection and clear legal status. The United States government followed suit on March 3 when Secretary Mayorkas designated Ukraine for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 18 months. According to the American Immigration Council, of the 344,000 Ukrainian immigrants in the United States, approximately 34,000 do not have an otherwise defined immigration status. These 34,000 Ukrainian immigrants, already present on U.S. soil, would be the ones who could benefit from a TPS designation from the administration.
On March 16, DHS announced an 18-month TPS designation for Afghanistan. The U.S. government evacuated 76,000 Afghans after the 20-year U.S.-led conflict ended last August. But for the 36,000 who did not arrive through the refugee resettlement program or on Special Immigrant Visa status, their two-year Humanitarian Parole will expire next year with no automatic path to legal permanent residency or citizenship. Because of the tremendous asylum backlog, designating Afghanistan for TPS is a temporary measure that will relieve pressure on the asylum system while Congress weighs the Afghan Adjustment Act, which would provide a path for parolees.
It is commendable that DHS moved swiftly to designate Ukrainian refugee populations for TPS and belatedly designated Afghan refugee populations soon thereafter. However, while many field groups (like National TPS Alliance, HIAS, and Refugee Congress) are supportive of the government designating the Ukrainian population, they rightfully point out that the Biden administration must respond with similar urgency in designating TPS for migrants from non-European countries like Cameroon, Ethiopia, Guatemala, and Mauritania, among others. As Refugee Congress states, “Majority Black, Brown and Indigenous people who have been waiting to be provided the same pathway to protection deserve to be afforded with the same protection and should not have to return back to the very dangerous conditions they fled from.” As HIAS states, “They can no more go home than Ukrainians can.”
While these near-term responses are necessary and important, we know that long-term strategies—and investments—are needed. We must address the root causes of migration, and the role that imperialism, militarism, and climate change play in both displacing and restricting the movement of millions around the world. We need to cultivate and support intersectional, transnational, and cross-movement work that centers narrative change, organizing, and power building. And we need a thriving immigrant and refugee movement ecosystem supported by a durable, interconnected, well-resourced infrastructure. We will be exploring these issues—and more—in our monthly learning series and at our convening in Houston. We hope you will join us.