Immigrant rights marchers © Molly Decoudreaux

Learning from California on Immigration

Lessons for philanthropy and the nation

Program director Cathy Cha reflects on how far the immigrant rights movement in California has come, and how these advances became possible.

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Creating opportunities for immigrants to join the mainstream of American society is the right thing to do for a host of reasons, including economic ones.

A recent article in the Los Angeles Times revealed that President Obama’s action to offer undocumented immigrants work permits and temporary relief from deportation will add $27.5 billion to California’s economy in the coming years. That’s on top of the economic benefits we can assume California already is reaping from smart and compassionate policies adopted in recent years to improve immigrants’ access to higher education and drivers’ licenses and protect them from unjust law enforcement actions.

In a new article for the National Center for Responsive Philanthropy, I reflect on some of these policies and how they came about. Spoiler alert: It all happened because immigrant rights groups across the state came together with strong foundation support to advance a shared agenda for change.

So don’t take the stalemate on immigration reform in Washington as a sign that real and lasting progress isn’t possible on this issue. California is showing how to move forward in a way that helps everyone succeed.