‘Let’s lean in and be courageous’: Inside GCIR’s advocacy tour through Washington, D.C.

Thursday, April 11, 2024
For the second year in a row, Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees led a delegation to the nation’s capital to meet directly with policy-makers and discuss the most pressing immigration issues of our time. 

The gathering was part of the United Philanthropy Forum’s 21st annual Foundations on the Hill conference, also known as FOTH, where donors and foundations have the opportunity to meet with legislators and government officials in Washington, D.C. to discuss urgent policy priorities.

“It's so important that philanthropy and funders are involved in lifting up and leveraging their voice in D.C. in support of immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers,” said Kevin Douglas, senior director of national programs at GCIR.

GCIR’s delegation, which included GCIR staff and representatives from The Surdna Foundation and Maine Initiatives, joined the event back in February. Together, they met with a diverse range of policy-makers, including officials with the departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services, as well as the legislative offices of congressional leaders from across the country.

Music credit: "Finally See the Light," written by Bryan Teoh on freepd.com. Licensed under CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

For some members within GCIR’s delegation, the event marked their first-ever experience in meeting with officials or doing advocacy-related work in Washington, D.C.

“It was definitely a learning curve,” said Martina Leake, who is a program associate at Maine Initiatives. “But it was really great, honestly, to hear the different viewpoints and have a comprehensive understanding of what folks in different offices are thinking about immigration.”

The topics under discussion included key issues often at the center of intense political debates and rhetoric, including asylum access, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the 287(g) immigration enforcement program, and more. And with the highly-anticipated 2024 presidential election on the horizon, foundations are seeking ways to make an impact by supporting immigrant and refugee health, safety, wellbeing, and belonging. 

Music credit: "Finally See the Light," written by Bryan Teoh on freepd.com. Licensed under CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.
For Shima Kabirigi, director of the Immigrant-Led Organizations Fund at Maine Initiatives, there’s one simple word that
comes to mind in the face of impending anxiety over the election outcome, and that’s courage.
“Let's lean in and be courageous and support the communities that we are part of and that we want to support,”
she said.
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