The session presenters, brought together by Grantmakers Concerned with Immigration and Refugees, made the case that the local efforts and the lessons they are learning around immigrant integration will influence and guide the national discussion on immigration. They indicated that the coalitions that are being developed between immigrant and non-immigrant groups is a relatively new development that bears watching.
The panelists believe that a national political battle is about to erupt on creating a legal path for undocumented immigrants. They rightly argue that one-third of the nation cannot hide in the shadows if we are to have a fully functioning democracy. They also made the point that immigration policy has been racialized by wrongly associating immigration almost exclusively with Mexicans and that the issue is much broader than one group. Their most controversial comments revolved around how racist hate groups have tried to use the immigrant issue to create divisions between local African American and Jewish groups.
They called on philanthropy to become more engaged in this public policy and advocacy work. Given the importance of immigration in the creation of our country and their ongoing contributions to our economy and society, why aren’t foundations more engaged and involved in this work? The one disappointment is that sessions like this continue to draw the faithful without appreciably bringing in new people. Perhaps these sessions could be combined with the issue of education, healthcare, or class (three of the concurrent sessions) to expand the dialogue and show the interconnections?
Emmett Carson is president of The Silicon Valley Community Foundation.