Tags: Immigration | liberal | donations | undocumented immigrants | foundations

Liberal Groups Donate to Legalize Undocumented Immigrants

By    |   Friday, 14 November 2014 06:22 PM

Some of the nation's wealthiest liberal foundations have donated millions of dollars to groups fighting to legalize undocumented immigrants sparking critics' complaints the donors are playing partisan politics.

The Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Open Society Foundations of the financier George Soros, and the Atlantic Philanthropies have invested more than $300 million over the last decade in immigrant movement groups including those fighting for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, The New York Times reports.

The donors' support has been steadfast even as the immigration issue has intensified, pitting a Republican Congress against President Barack Obama, who is preparing to shield up to 5 million immigrants from deportation.

"The whole apparatus has become the handmaiden of the Democratic Party," charges Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR, which opposes legalization for undocumented immigrants, the Times reports.

"These foundations fund activist organizations designed to create ethnic identity enclaves and politically control them for partisan purposes."

Foundation leaders argue they're meticulously careful that their donations aren't funding "partisan politics."

"We want to protect the interests of immigrants," Stephen McConnell, director of United States programs for the Atlantic Philanthropies, told the Times. The philanthropy has given nearly $69 million in 72 immigration grants in the last decade, the Times reports.

"Atlantic does not in any way support candidates or get involved in partisan politics."

Most of the philanthropies’ funds have been tax-exempt charitable donations that can't be used primarily to influence legislation, the Times notes.

But in 2013, when the Senate passed an immigration bill and the House was considering options, several foundations also made multimillion dollar "social welfare" grants that can be used for lobbying.

"Our grantees are generally working in the direction of our long-term goal of protecting the rights and dignity of immigrants and our belief that immigrants should have a voice," Mayra Peters-Quintero, a senior program officer at the Ford Foundation, told the Times.

The Ford Foundation has donated about $80 million to immigrant groups over the last 10 years, all in charitable funds, the Times notes.

"The compass that drives our work is not the political cycle of the moment," Peters-Quintero told the newspaper.

The donors’ strategy came about in 2007 after a bill pushed by President George W. Bush failed in Congress, the Times reports.

"For all our vaunted work we were basically a fractious coalition that just got our butts kicked," Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, told the Times.

"The good news was that the funders really got the idea of building up a movement that could press for change at all levels. We were really talking about a movement that could win the grand prize, legislation that puts 11 million people on a path to citizenship."

The Ford Foundation has funded nonprofits aiding immigrants for years, while since 2003, Carnegie has given about $100 million for immigration initiatives, all in conventional charitable donations, including millions to help legal immigrants become American citizens, the Times reports.

The Open Society Foundations of Soros have invested about $76 million in the last decade in immigrant rights, the Times reports; the Atlantic Philanthropies made about half of its grants in donations that allow lobbying, the Times reports.

One group that grew fast with little outside money help was comprised of young immigrants, the Times notes. Calling themselves Dreamers, their protests in 2012 prodded Obama to take his first major executive action on immigration, a program that has given reprieves from deportation to more than 580,000 Dreamers, the Times notes.

"We did it with nothing and we won," Cristina Jimenez, managing director of United We Dream, one group that led that crusade, told the Times. "It was a powerful feeling."

In 2013, Ford gave $2.3 million to the group for a national effort to help Dreamers sign up for the reprieves. And in the heat of the immigration debate in Congress last year, the policy advocacy wing of Open Society gave $6.2 million to several groups in donations allowing lobbying, the Times reports.

"We have enormous faith in the groups with which we have had longstanding relationships, and we wanted to give them resources to pursue the best possible legislative fix for the problems in our immigration system," Caroline Chambers, deputy director of the Open Society Policy Center, told the Times.

Foundation leaders said GOP resistance to the immigrant groups' intensified agenda doesn't change their position.

"Name me something in the American political debate that isn’t partisan right now," McConnell told the Times. "It’s just the nature of the beast."

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Some of the nation's wealthiest liberal foundations have donated millions of dollars to groups fighting to legalize undocumented immigrants - sparking critics' complaints the donors are playing partisan politics.
liberal, donations, undocumented immigrants, foundations
Friday, 14 November 2014 06:22 PM
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