One week after President Trump issued an executive order barring refugees and citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States, more than 50 philanthropy leaders issued a joint statement that castigated the ban and heralded immigrants’ contributions to the nation’s defense, economy, and civic life.
Mr. Trump’s immigration orders “compromise our nation’s founding principles and the Constitution, our standing in the world, and our core values of liberty, justice, and due process,” reads the statement, which was issued by Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees. “They weaken our moral leadership, fuel the efforts of those who wish us ill, harm our global competitiveness, and fray our social fabric.”
The statement was signed by leaders of large national grant makers, including the Hewlett and Open Society foundations, grant-making coalitions such as Hispanics in Philanthropy and the Women’s Donor Network, and regional foundations, including the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta and the Latino Community Foundation of Colorado.
The foundations pledged to stand by their grantees in a push for policies that “promote cohesion and inclusion.” In the near future, the statement warns, more challenges await, in the form of policy proposals that target individuals based on gender, race, ethnicity, and other grounds.
Grant makers are hardly the only nonprofits to come together to protest the travel ban. The day after the executive order was signed, more than 60 members of the Association of American Universities. which included major research institutions, sharply condemned the president’s order.
Growing More Vocal
In July, during the tumult of the presidential race, more than three dozen grant makers took out advertisements in newspapers across the country “to counteract the feelings of sorrow and discord” resulting from the recent killings of both citizens and police officers. The message seemed to place the grant makers between opposing political parties, as Democrats sought to engage members of the Black Lives Matter movement and Republicans worked to defend police officers from attacks and buttress the criminal-justice system.
In the immediate aftermath of Mr. Trump’s election, many progressive foundations struggled with how to react to the incoming administration. Some remained confident that there would be opportunities to work with the Trump administration on policy, and some, including the California Endowment, set aside money to fight policy setbacks.
The San Francisco Foundation also responded, with a “rapid-response fund” to provide grants of $3,000 to $15,000 to grass-roots organizations. To counter anticipated changes in federal policy on immigration, the grant maker also set aside $3 million, including matching grants of more than $1 million from local governments to support “know your rights” education in immigrant communities and to support legal service providers in San Francisco’s immigrant communities.
“We didn’t think that folks were playing around,” Fred Blackwell, the foundation’s president said, referring to the new administration. Many foundations took a “wait-and-see” approach to the new administration, he said.
The executive orders were a tangible policy platform that has helped many foundation leaders “get on the other side of waiting,” he added.
Since the beginning of the year, some foundation executives have been more vocal. Grant Oliphant, who leads the Heinz Endowments, has urged his philanthropic peers to “refrain from falling mute.”
He followed up on Thursday with a note that stressed that Pittsburgh, the grant maker’s home, must welcome immigrants. Others have offered similar sentiments, including the leaders of the Irvine, Rosenberg, and Vilcek foundations.
Jan and Marica Vilcek, co-founders of their foundation, noted that they arrived in the United States as refugees from the former Czechoslovakia and held green cards before becoming citizens.
The executive order, they said, is “harmful to the country’s economic interests and competitiveness and damaging to America’s standing in the world.”
By Alex Daniels
Chronicle of Philanthropy
February 3, 2017