Philanthropy Must Confront Our Country’s History of Racist Immigration Policies

Wednesday, September 23, 2020


This op-ed was originally published in the Chronicle of Philanthropy on September 23, 2020. The undersigned funders join GCIR in taking a stand against hate and support this call to action to philanthropy. Their signatures appear in chronological order; foundation and organization affiliations are listed for identification purposes only. Given GCIR's focus on philanthropy, signatories are limited to grantmakers and philanthropic support organizations. Complete this form to sign on and join our call to action.


The murder of George Floyd and the Covid-19 pandemic have forced philanthropy to reckon with racism and its deadly disparities.

As our sector considers how we can play a role in shaping a more just and equitable future, we must confront our own roots in white supremacy and the profound ways in which historical inequities continue to manifest themselves today — in funding policies and practices; underinvestment in efforts aimed at dismantling structural racism; and underrepresentation of Blacks, Indigenous people, and people of color within philanthropic leadership.

Philanthropic discussions on racism are long overdue, and they must expand to include immigration because the two issues are inextricably linked. Indeed, the current policy separating immigrant families is rooted in the same racist ideology behind boarding-school policies that tore apart Indigenous families and the slave trade that devastated Black families.

As philanthropy confronts our country’s history of genocide and slavery, our sector must also wrestle with hundreds of years of racist immigration policies — from the 1790 law that allowed only “free white people” to naturalize, to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, to the Muslim and African bans and exclusion of undocumented immigrants from federal Covid-19 relief in the Trump era.

Anti-immigrant policies in recent years didn’t just come out of thin air. Private philanthropy has financed hate groups substantially and consistently over decades to develop an expansive playbook for reducing immigration by people of color. These hate groups often frame their arguments in seemingly rational and measured ways, sometimes even co-opting progressive language on population, the environment, and racial justice.

But make no mistake: Masquerading behind innocuous terms such as “demographics” and “economics” are the same xenophobia and racism that have driven immigration policy and plagued our society for generations. They demonize, dehumanize, and criminalize immigrants, and they intentionally pit immigrants and Black Americans against one another, aiming to derail our collective efforts to fight injustice.

A recent letter to the editor the Chronicle published exposed two such examples of white supremacist ideology disguised as reasoned perspectives on immigration. Its authors offered a concrete example of how a foundation with a record of bankrolling white nationalist voices and anti-immigrant organizations is not to be believed when it claims to be a proponent of legitimate debate on immigration and “serious about addressing systematic and institutional racism.” The letter rightly named the “mainstreaming of white supremacist ideology” as “one of the greatest challenges of our time” and called attention to the role philanthropy has played in “promoting, funding, and sustaining” anti-immigrant hate groups as “organizations committed to white supremacy.”

In doing so, the letter reminds us that in our painful but necessary reckoning with the legacy of racism in this country, we must remain vigilant against false narratives and clear eyed about their motivation: to halt and reverse demographic change.

For philanthropy to truly live our core values of humanity, equity, and justice, there can be no room for hate in our community. It is time for our sector to have tough conversations about the connections between racism, white supremacy, and attacks against immigrants and refugees. To educate ourselves about anti-immigrant hate groups and our nation’s racist immigration policies. To call out, condemn, and put an end to funding for hate groups. To invest deeply and for the long term in organizations working at the intersection of immigration and structural racism. And to hold ourselves and one another accountable in the fight to end white supremacy and achieve justice and equity for all.



Jane West, Executive Director
The Two Lilies Fund

Susan Eaton, Director
The Sillerman Center at The Heller School for
Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University

Ainee Athar, Program Manager
Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

Lina Park, Executive Director
Korean American Community Foundation of San Francisco

Grace Lee, Sr. Program Manager
Korean American Community Foundation of San Francisco

Jacqueline Martinez Garcel, CEO
Latino Community Foundation

Aaron Dorfman, President and CEO
National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy 

Kris Lin-Bronner, Executive Director
Dr. Bronner's Family Foundation

Jennifer Leith, Executive Director
The Douty Foundation

Dimple Abichandani, Executive Director
General Service Foundation

Vivian Tseng, Senior Vice President
William T Grant Foundation

Patricia Eng, President
Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP)

David Biemesderfer, President & CEO
United Philanthropy Forum

Fo-Ching Lu, President
SYL Foundation

Alexandra Toma, Executive Director
Peace and Security Funders Group

Karen McNeil-Miller, President and CEO
Colorado Health Foundation

Kyle Rojas Legleiter, Senior Director of Public Policy
Colorado Health Foundation

Virginia Clarke, Executive Director
Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders (SAFSF)

Taryn Higashi, Executive Director
Unbound Philanthropy

Ted Wang, US Program Director
Unbound Philanthropy

Beth Tigay, Executive Director
Fineshriber Family Foundation

Paul Di Donato, President & CEO
Proteus Fund

Shireen Zaman, Director
RISE Together Fund, Proteus Fund

Ellen Friedman, Executive Director
Compton Foundation

Amanda Andere, CEO
Funders Together to End Homelessness

Franny Canfield, Interim Executive Director
Environmental Grantmakers Association

John L. Barnes, Executive Director
Funders Concerned About AIDS

Niamani Mutima, Executive Director
Africa Grantmakers' Affinity Group

Kiran Ahuja, CEO
Philanthropy Northwest

Ned Calonge, President and CEO
The Colorado Trust

Efrain Escobedo, Vice President, Public Policy and Civic Engagement
California Community Foundation

Kristina Wertz, Acting President
Funders for LGBTQ Issues

Christina Dellaventura, Grant Assistant
Open Society Foundations

Sarah Martinez-Helfman, President
Samuel S. Fels Fund

Chris Essel, President and CEO
Philanthropy California

Debbie McKeon, President and CEO
Philanthropy California

Dwayne Marsh, President and CEO
Philanthropy California

Joseph Gutierez, Interim Executive Director
Dan and Margaret Maddox Fund

John Feather, Chief Executive Officer
Grantmakers in Aging

Kathleen Enright, President and CEO
Council on Foundations

Sean Gibbons, CEO
The Communications Network

Joanne Kelley, CEO
Philanthropy Colorado

Eddie Torres, President and CEO
Grantmakers in the Arts

Laura Seaman, CEO
League of California Community Foundations

Molly Schultz Hafid, Executive Director
Butler Family Fund

Miguel Gavaldon, Trustee
Buck Family Fund at the Marin Community Foundation

Carolyn Wang Kong, Chief Program Director
Blue Shield of California Foundation

Antonia Hernandez, President and CEO
California Community Foundation

Janine Lee, President & CEO
Southeastern Council of Foundations

Joanne Kelley, CEO
Philanthropy Colorado

Kyle Caldwell, President & CEO
Council of Michigan Foundations

Susan Taylor Batten, President and CEO
ABFE: A Philanthropic Partnership for Black Communities

Rachel Leon, Executive Director
Environmental Grantmakers

Ana Marie Argilagos, President & CEO
Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP)

Adriana Rocha, President
Neighborhood Funders Group

Erik R. Stegman, Executive Director
Native Americans in Philanthropy

Jeannette Andre, President & CEO
Maine Philanthropy Center

Ana María Enríquez, Executive Director
Human Rights Funders Network

Kendall Clawson, Chief Executive Officer
GRANTMAKERS of Oregon and Southwest Washington

Ruth LaToison Ifill, Interim President & CEO
Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers

K Sujata, Interim Executive Director

Storme Gray, Executive Director
Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP)

Deborah Aubert Thomas, President & CEO
Philanthropy Ohio

Karla Fortunato, President
Connecticut Council for Philanthropy

Lori Villarosa, Executive Director
Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity (PRE)

Phil Buchanan, President
Center for Effective Philanthropy

Nick Tedesco, President & CEO
National Center for Family Philanthropy

Patricia L. Smith, President & CEO
The Funders Network

Louise Davis, President
PPRB Foundation

Dwayne S. Marsh, President and CEO
Northern California Grantmakers

Surina Khan, CEO
Women's Foundation California

Christine Essel, President & CEO
Southern California Grantmakers

Taryn Palumbo, Executive Director
Orange County Grantmakers

Tom Perriello, Executive Director
Open Society Foundations - U.S.

Debbie Chang, President and CEO
Blue Shield of California Foundation

Satonya Fair, President and CEO
PEAK Grantmaking

Lelia Hessini, Vice President, Programs
Global Fund for Women

Yifat Susskind, Executive Director

Cynthia Addams, Chief Executive Officer
The Collins Foundation

Truman Collins, President
The Collins Foundation

Ret Boney, Executive Director
North Carolina Network of Grantmakers

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