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Strategies for Supporting AAPI, Black, and LGBTQ Immigrants

Publication date: 
Tuesday, December 5, 2017

On November 28, 2017, Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR) hosted a webinar, “United for All Dreamers: Strategies for Supporting AAPI, Black and LGBTQ immigrants”. The presentation focused on how funders can support Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients after the White House announced the DACA program phase-out and the removal of TPS designation for certain countries. The presentation speakers were:

  • Aarti Kohli, Executive Director, Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus
  • Jonathan Jayes-Green, Co-Founder, UndocuBlack Network
  • Julia Yang-Winkenbach, US Program Associate, Unbound Philanthropy*
  • Allie Larso, Program Manager, Community Impact, Greater Twin Cities United Way*
  • Marco Antonio Quiroga, Program Director, Contigo Fund / Our Fund Foundation*
  • Rini Chakraborty, Senior Program Officer, Four Freedoms Fund, NEO Philanthropy*


The presentation was moderated by Aryah Somers Landsberger, Director of Programs at GCIR.


Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in 2012

After Congress failed to pass the DREAM Act in 2010, the Obama Administration created the DACA program through executive action. The program provided eligible participants two-year temporary work permits and protection from deportation. With the work permits, DACA recipients were able to obtain social security cards, driver’s licenses, and access to health insurance. Today, close to over 800,000 individuals are considered DACA recipients and an estimated 90 percent of DACA recipients are currently employed.


AAPI, Black and LBGTQ Undocumented Youth

According to Aarti Kohli, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) youth were often made invisible as they were not immediately considered as being undocumented. She explained that in 2008, AAPI undocumented youth began seeking legal support from Advancing Justice. As a result, Advancing Justice created ASPIRE, which is a space dedicated to the needs of AAPI undocumented youth and has evolved to greatly focus on leadership development. ASPIRE developed the capacity for organizing advocacy efforts to address issues affecting AAPI undocumented youth, which became instrumental in influencing the Obama Administration’s decision to establish the DACA program. One of the successes of ASPIRE has been developing the leadership skills of one of its youth members, who eventually become the first undocumented medical student in the United States. Kohli emphasized that supporting undocumented youth advocacy was fundamentally what led to the creation of DACA and will continue to guide efforts for supporting immigrant integration.

Similarly, Jonathan Jayes-Green founded the UndocuBlack network having identified that undocumented Black immigrants were also rendered invisible in conversations and policies associated with immigration. The UndocuBlack network began in 2016 and has 3 chapters located in the DC-Maryland-Virginia (DMV) area, Los Angeles and New York. The network has been a place of healing for undocumented African and Black identifying individuals, aside from their advocacy work. One of their ongoing projects is a Mental Wellness Initiative designated to help Black immigrants confront trauma, in the absence of formal access to healthcare.


Effects of DACA Phase-Out and Removal of TPS Designation

Since the White House announcement regarding the phasing out of DACA, many community advocates and community organizations have organized DACA renewal assistance programs before the October 12 renewal deadline. The White House has given Congress six months to provide a legislative solution for DACA participants and undocumented youth, but has yet to provide clarity whether any action will be taken if Congress fails to pass legislation. So far, community advocates see December 8, 2017, which is the final day before Congress goes into winter recess, for Congress to pass a legislation. According to Kohli, about 30,000 DACA recipients will lose their jobs per month due to work permit expirations. Moreover, the months between January through March 2018, July through September 2018, and October through December 2018 will see the largest job losses for DACA recipients. State institutions such as the California Legislature and the University of California have been looking into alternative ways of compensation for DACA recipients, if federal legislation does not pass. The best possible chance for a legislative fix for DACA recipients is the DREAM Act. Many community organizations are calling for the passage of a “clean” DREAM Act, an initiative to push Congress to pass the DREAM Act without negative consequences such as increased border security or escalating deportation tactics for undocumented immigrants not protected in the legislative framework of the DREAM Act.

In addition to a clean Dream Act, advocacy and organizing efforts have been underway for immigrants with Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The White House announced early in November that several countries will have their TPS designation removed. The announcement has caused great concern for many communities because it puts more immigrants at risk of deportation. Jayes-Green pointed-out that several TPS designated countries are Black majority countries including Haiti, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan. He explained that are currently three legislative proposals in Congress, but only one that UndocuBlack Network has analyzed as being substantial in protecting TPS recipients and will be advocating for.


Approaches in Philanthropy

From a funder’s perspective, Marco Quiroga of the Contigo Fund / Our Fund Foundation provided several insights to their grant making process as it relates to both assisting LGBTQ community and immigrant populations. The Contigo Fund’s grantmaking framework is based on a community-driven model, whereby the Contingo Fund centers those who are most impacted by the issue in their grant making process. Quiroga added that their funding process incorporates an equity component. Successfully-funded grantees have within their projects an emphasis in addressing LGBTQ or racial equity issues. One of their grantee examples was the Hope Community Center in Florida. The Hope Community Center provides farm worker communities of which a majority are of immigrant background and the Farm Workers Association with “Know Your Rights” education. The Contigo Fund has also set up a Rapid Response Fund to identify individuals in the Florida community that might benefit from certain types of immigration relief as well as a Pro Bono Network that consists of attorneys that are culturally-informed to help vulnerable communities through legal support. Quiroga underscored that reaching out to communities that have directly experienced issues with immigration has been quintessential to their long term funding strategy.

Allie Larson from Greater Twin Cities United Way shared her organization’s structure and funding approach in assisting their community. Larson explained that their coalition recognizes and leverages internal and collaborative assets, which involved hiring cultural consultants to inform their work, building their grantmaking process through community engagement, and having a shared power and decision-making model. One of the ways they have incorporated their philosophy in practice was through their “Strength and Resilience Grants”, which offers $25,000 grants to their grantees. The Strength and Resilience Grant was developed from what the organization learned through their Crisis Response Minigrants and the DACA Response Grant. The two grants highly-involved community reviewers who were paid with a stipend to help guide an understanding of what funding priorities should be. Larson also provided key points for funders thinking of undertaking similar work with respect to their communities. She advised that funders:

  • Name the intersectionality – where are the issue touch points such as those experienced by LGBTQ and immigrant communities?
  • Create a safe space
  • Do your homework – research policy and funder groups that are already doing work
  • Show up where people are congregating
  • Look into state organizations
  • Follow community voice and wisdom
  • Appreciate underground work and invisibility – certain groups are working under the surface as a way to protect vulnerable members of the community


On the national level, Julia Yang-Winkenbach of Unbound Philanthropy echoed the recommendations made by the Contigo Fund and Greater Twin Cities United Way. They also, presented that Unbound Philanthropy’s grant making approach for immigrant communities involved sustaining the leadership development of those directly impacted by issues of immigration.  Over the years, they have also funded not only leadership development, but also civic engagement and legal services for immigrant communities. This included funding the AAPI DACA Collaborative, which provided additional capacity to increase assistance for AAPI undocumented youth to apply for the DACA program. In New York City, Unbound Philanthropy established the Four Freedoms Fund, which enabled greater capacity to provide assistance to African and Black immigrants. Yang-Winkenbach explained that passing a clean DREAM Act before the end of the year is morally imperative and also, recognizes that funders should be prepared to support future convenings that raises the voices of undocumented immigrant youth and services that provide health, education and legal assistance, especially if Congress fails to pass a legislative solution to protect DACA and TPS recipients.

Presentation speakers dutifully emphasized closely aligning organization values with the values of those closest to the challenges that the organization is trying to address. Understanding the narratives of those made invisible such as AAPI, Black and LBGTQ undocumented youth is key to effective grant making and a sustainable grant making structure.


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