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In a Climate of Fear, California Funders Step Up for Immigrants

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

In California, fear has gripped immigrant communities as federal authorities—newly empowered by the Trump administration—step up arrests and deportations.

Across the state, public officials from the governor downward have vowed to use their powers to protect immigrant communities. More foundations are also stepping forward to support immigrants.

Earlier this month, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation’s board voted unanimously to give its full support to Senate Bill 6, the Due Process for All Act, which provides public funding for legal services for immigrants facing deportation. In January, SVCF created the Opportunity for All fund provide immigrants in Silicon Valley with access to affordable legal services. This builds on past funding efforts in this area that go back to 2008.

“There is a considerable lack of knowledge in our state about the contributions of immigrants, the incredible legal assistance need, and the potential danger of the federal government’s new immigration policies to our state,” SVCF's CEO, Emmett Carson said in statement released March 2. “We have the responsibility and the long-established partnerships to bring advocacy and legal resources to bear to protect those we consider to be assets, fundamental to our region’s continued prosperity and quality of life.”

The California Endowment has also mobilized in a big way. Recently, we reported that the foundation was setting aside $25 million to help California residents who might be hurt by Trump policies—mainly around immigration and healthcare. The San Francisco Foundation has also created a rapid-response fund to support new movement building efforts, including around immigrant rights.  

RelatedBlue Fortress: California, and Its Funders, Get Ready to Fight Trump

Most recently, the California Community Foundation awarded $1.4 million in immigration-related rapid response grants. These grants went to 19 organizations in Los Angeles County working to protect immigrant families in need. 

Roughly a million undocumented immigrants live in Los Angeles and Orange counties, and Trump's election has created intense apprehension among these communities. Advocates and legal groups, in turn, are facing a crush of new requests for information and help. Things could become much worse as the Trump administration steps up its enforcement activities.

CCF's new grant money is not only supporting legal representation, but "know your rights” workshops, policy advocacy, and help for people seeking citizenship. A sampling of recently funded groups includes Asian Americans Advancing Justice Los Angeles, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, and the University of California - UC Undocumented Legal Services Center.

California Community Foundation President and CEO Antonia Hernández said in the press release, "We are proud to support the organizations working tirelessly to ensure all people have access to legal services and the due process they rightly deserve."

It's important to note that these CCF grants were made as part of a public/private partnership that involves other local heavy-hitters like the Weingart Foundation, the California Endowment, and the James Irvine Foundation. Government entities of Los Angeles County and the City of Los Angeles are also in the mix. Also, Hernández was one of the many signatories of the Joint Foundation Statement on Immigration last month. Nearly 200 philanthropic institutions have now signed this statement, including many California foundations. 

The immigration crackdown could negatively impact many communities across the country, but Los Angeles stands to be among the hardest hit. That’s because over 40 percent of the region’s workforce are immigrant workers; making life difficult for this population has already begun to cause economic disruption.

The California Community Foundation is a longtime player on immigration issues, approaching this area from different angles. A few years ago, for example, we reported on CCF's emergency efforts with public and private partners to help unaccompanied children immigrants get legal help and support. In the past, this funder has also offered two-year project support grants of up to $150,000 to increase the civic participation of immigrant communities and create policy solutions. A 35-member panel of business, labor, law enforcement, government, and community organization leaders makes up the funder's Council on Immigrant Integration and addresses policy issues and strategic development to integrate immigrants into the Los Angeles region. (Keep an eye on CCF’s Immigrant Integration Grants section.)

California may be the epicenter of the immigration battle, but plenty is happening elsewhere, too, with more funders getting involved. We've recently highlighted emergency efforts of community funders in New York, most notably the Brooklyn Community Foundation and the New York Community Trust, to support immigrants. The New York metro area actually has a larger population of undocumented immigrants than L.A. and Orange counties. 

Published by Inside Philanthropy
Author: Alyssa Ochs