The Power of Purposeful Infrastructure

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

Since taking office, President Biden has been purposeful and deliberate in articulating a vision for “building back better,” seeking to develop a modern infrastructure that, among other things, addresses historical weaknesses and inequalities. Much of what he proposes to invest in are systems, communities, and tools that are often overlooked and underfunded. Yet, we know that they are the scaffolding upon which creative and durable solutions to our most intractable challenges and injustices can be built. Infrastructure—when invested in well and over the long term—can support organizations and movements to achieve transformative justice for the communities they serve.

Indeed, the potential for significant federal immigration relief—and the implementation of such relief at the local and state levels—is predicated on a durable, interconnected, and well-resourced infrastructure. A lasting infrastructure—comprised of organizing, power building, direct service, and advocacy organizations—can coordinate efforts and strategies for broad impact. That is why, at GCIR, we strive to:

  • Amplify examples of existing immigrant justice infrastructure, as we did in our April 21st webinar highlighting the coordinated and strategic narrative, policy, and solidarity efforts by AAPI leaders, not only to address anti-Asian violence but also to build durable AAPI immigrant power.
  • Support learning communities, research, and tools that focus on infrastructure, like the California Legal Services Capacity Assessment, which is designed to provide funders who invest in California with a better understanding of the immigration legal services landscape and to maximize philanthropic investment in legal services.
  • Build and sustain local and national funding infrastructure—like the California Immigrant Integration Initiative and the Delivering on the Dream network—that supports coordinated grantmaking to strengthen the immigrant justice, power building, and service ecosystems in diverse locales.

We are also building forward our internal infrastructure at GCIR by expanding our staff capacity. We are thrilled to welcome our new Vice President of Programs, Ivy Suriyopas, and we will soon launch a national search for a Director of Local and State Programs, who will focus on key geographic areas across the country.

For funders that share our vision of building long-term, sustainable impact for immigrant communities, it will be essential to mobilize investments in and support for the local, state, and national immigrant justice infrastructure. Philanthropy can:

  • Fund organizations addressing systemic access issues for immigrant communities. Examples include hiring culturally competent attorneys, creating an infrastructure to share legal services capacity across urban-rural divides, and creating a pool of language interpreters that multiple nonprofits can tap.
  • Invest in the creation of community referral networks, which will be key to success as new immigration relief opportunities open up. These referral networks can provide culturally competent and accessible services, help immigrants and asylum seekers navigate complex legal processes, assist with logistics, and guide them to the appropriate part of the network at each step. GCIR’s new California Dignity for Families Fund, for example, aims to build a durable, long-term nonprofit infrastructure to provide migrants with both humanitarian relief at the border and ongoing support in destination communities.
  • Support cross-movement coordination and collaboration by providing flexible funding for convenings, strategy sessions, and relationship building that allow organizations to build meaningful alliances between the immigrant justice, racial justice, and other interconnected movements.

At its most basic level, infrastructure is the foundation necessary to ensure that society functions. Infrastructure is also about being in “right relationship” with each other—in the ways we communicate, how we take care of our communities, and the practices and policies we use to govern ourselves and steward our shared resources. Infrastructure is important and powerful because it means that no one has to take care of themselves on their own. At GCIR, we are committed to calling for and catalyzing investments in powerful and purposeful infrastructure that advances immigrant justice and belonging.

In solidarity,

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