Today, nearly 40 million immigrants call the United States their home, including almost 3 million in California alone. The country’s immigrants include 11 million new Americans who are living and working in the shadows because the U.S. immigration system is broken. It’s time to create a fairer immigration process that is worthy of our country’s highest ideals, and that strengthens our communities and our economy.
Why This Work is Important
Immigrants come to the United States seeking the same things that have attracted so many others over decades and centuries before – freedom from poverty and prejudice, a chance at a better life for themselves and their families. And yet millions of immigrants still face enormous obstacles to their full participation in American society – from denial of employment and education opportunities to exploitation at work to discriminatory law enforcement practices and more.
Where There's Progress
The immigrant rights movement has built a strong base of activists, significant communications muscle, and solid relationships with labor and faith groups, as well as parts of the business community that rely on employing immigrants. Because of these strengths, the movement has achieved important gains in recent years. Chief among these was President Obama’s announcement in 2012 that the federal government would stop deporting the children of undocumented immigrants (Dreamers) and provide them with temporary work permits. But none of the recent wins for the movement is a substitute for federal immigration reform offering a roadmap to citizenship for aspiring Americans.
What We're Doing
The Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund has a long history of working to lift up the voice, leadership, and civic participation of immigrant communities. Building on this commitment, we were one of the first foundations to get involved in supporting the movement for federal immigration reform. We were an early investor in the Four Freedoms Fund, the national funding collaborative for the immigration movement. In addition, we have supported many of the key organizations educating the public about the need for reform, while at the same time investing in California-based immigrant groups working on this issue. Since the launch of the Immigrant Rights and Integration program in 1999, the Haas, Jr. Fund has made grants totaling more than $35 million in this area.
How We'll Get There
Immigration policy is one of the most hotly contested issues of our time. But creating a roadmap to citizenship for aspiring Americans is within reach. In the months ahead, our work will focus on the following activities:
- Creating greater understanding of the need for federal and state policy reform. We are supporting non-lobbying educational activities to create greater understanding about the need for federal immigration reform that puts 11 million aspiring Americans on a path to citizenship and addresses other movement priorities. At the state level, we are supporting organizations (such as the California Immigrant Policy Center and MALDEF) to educate the public and decision-makers about policy changes necessary to support immigrant rights and integration in California and make the state a model for the country.
- Encouraging grassroots involvement of immigrants. We are working with our partners in California Civic Participation Funders to increase nonpartisan voter engagement and organizing in immigrant communities in San Diego, Orange County and the Inland Empire. In the years ahead, we will continue to support efforts aimed at engaging new and infrequent immigrant voters.
- Increasing the number of citizens in California and nationally. We are playing a leadership role in the New Americans Campaign, which aims to ease the path to citizenship for legal permanent residents (also known as green card holders). Since NAC started in mid-2011, over 52,000 citizenship applications have been completed. The New Americans Campaign seeks to help another 30,000 people overcome the barriers to becoming citizens this year.
- Building a stronger immigrant rights movement. We are helping the immigrant rights movement’s national leaders, including the National Immigration Forum, United We Dream and Center for Community Change, to craft messages and education campaigns that advance the cause of reform. We are supporting regional immigration coalitions, Dreamer networks and local groups (such as CHIRLA, SIREN and the Justice for Immigrants Coalition) as they carry out education efforts about the needs of immigrants. In addition, we support efforts to strengthen California’s voice in national policy debates such as the process that led to the development of the California Values Statement for Immigration Reform.
- Advancing the cause of the Dreamers. We are working with our movement partners to promote greater awareness of the unique needs of Dreamers. In December 2012, we awarded $1 million to UC Berkeley, the nation's single-largest gift for scholarships for undocumented students. We are also supporting legal services and outreach to assist as many California Dreamers as possible to obtain authorization and temporary work permits under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
- Nurturing movement leaders. We are investing to build the skills of immigrant movement leaders across the state through the Fellowships for a New California. In addition, we are providing convening opportunities for the leaders of statewide immigration policy groups in California in order to increase collaboration within the movement.