Immigrants are vital to our economy and our communities. Nearly 10 million immigrants, the largest of any state, call California home. More than 2 million Californians are undocumented. Immigrant workers comprise more than one-third of California’s labor force, and about one in 10 workers in the state is an undocumented immigrant.
Beyond the numbers, immigrants are our neighbors, co-workers, family members, and friends. They are us. And for far too long, they have been at the mercy of our nation’s broken and often cruel immigration laws and policies, which are tearing families apart, contributing to the exploitation of workers, and denying talented young immigrants their dreams.
A Historic Moment for Change
Fortunately, there now appears to be a promising and historic moment of opportunity to overhaul the immigration process for the better. The potential for transformational reform has gained momentum for a number of reasons, including: the Latino and Asian American vote during the 2012 Presidential election has put pressure on both parties to act on this issue; President Obama has made immigration reform a top priority; national polling, across political affiliations, shows broad bi-partisan support for immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship; Dreamers have changed the public conversation; and there is a stronger advocacy infrastructure than ever before, with deep engagement by labor, important business voices, faith leaders, and an organized field of advocacy groups.
This moment represents the best prospect for immigration reform in more than 25 years. Despite this good news, we know that the fight ahead will not be an easy one. Our nation will wrestle with many important policy issues in the coming months, and much of the public still needs to be educated about the issues involved in creating a new immigration process.
Special Action by Philanthropy
Those of us in philanthropy engaged across a broad range of issues–from social justice, to health, community and family strengthening, children’s well-being, and workers’ rights–can step up to support leaders and organizations fighting for common sense and fair immigration policies that uphold our basic values, protect the rights we hold dear, and improve conditions for immigrant youth and families across our state and country.
That’s why the Rosenberg Foundation’s Board of Directors has unanimously approved extra spending from the Foundation’s assets to increase our giving in 2013 and make a set of special opportunity grants as part of our Q1 grants in response to this critical moment. In nearly doubling the Foundation’s giving for immigrant rights, we have three important priorities: fund work with a focus on California, especially in rural and less-organized regions of the state; help elevate the voices of Dreamers, farmworkers, and low-wage workers; and support capacity building and leadership development that will leave our grant partners and the field stronger, regardless of the outcome of any particular piece of legislation.
You can read more about the special opportunity grants awarded in this press release.
Even Small Foundations Can Take Big Steps
With this move, we have increased our payout to 6.1 percent in 2013, and I thank our Board of Directors for their bold leadership in recognizing that doing so “makes excellent business sense for Rosenberg and for any Foundation that aims to strengthen our communities,” as our Board Chair, Daniel Grossman, said.
We also recognize the tremendous leadership and strategic grant making being done by colleagues at the Evelyn & Walter Haas Jr. Fund, the James Irvine Foundation, The California Endowment, California Community Foundation, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Ford Foundation, Four Freedoms Fund, Open Society Foundations, Carnegie, Unbound Philanthropy, and others. Our hope is that this major step by a small foundation can go a long way toward encouraging more of us in philanthropy to stretch our funding even further this year to respond to this unique window of opportunity.
We stand in solidarity with the amazing leaders across California and the country that are committed to making real the vision of a nation of immigrants and a nation of law. Advocates across California and the U.S. are working hard on the frontlines to win reform that is truly comprehensive, one that includes a pathway to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants; allows for an expedited process for Dreamers and farmworkers; enables LGBT couples to sponsor their international spouses and partners so they can join their families here; protects immigrant workers from abuse and exploitation; caps fines and fees at reasonable levels; and addresses abuses in border enforcement and the deportation system.
Moving forward, we will continue to work closely with our grant partners to ensure that immigrant populations are fully integrated into the social and economic fabric of California. We also are committed to the long-term and critical work to expand civic engagement and empowerment for all Californians, building power and yielding results for years to come.
Tim Silard is president of the Rosenberg Foundation. This blog originally appeared on their site.