Evaluation of a Pilot Project to Advance Pro-Immigrant Advocacy for Center for New Community, National Immigration Law Center, Progressive States Action

Mar 31, 2014
Since the four pillars were articulated in 2007, the immigrant rights movement has expanded in a number of significant ways. It has built stronger partnerships, both with other progressive groups, and with moderate and conservative allies. It has taken on a more state-level focus, as the continued failure to achieve comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level has led to a proliferation of state-level laws and initiatives. And new voices and leaders have emerged within the movement, most notably the "DREAMers," young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children who would benefit from the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship and other benefits for those in their specific situation. The net result of these changes has been a movement that is more adaptable, more localized, and more diverse -- but not necessarily more effective, when judged by the national-level metric of achieving comprehensive immigration reform. And it is debatable to what extent advances at the state level have been the result of state-level, ground-up organizing vs. coordinated action from national organizations. The pilot project that is the subject of this evaluation gets at these very issues. It addresses the possibility of pro-immigrant advocacy at the state level, and tests a model of national-local collaboration to advance this goal.
  • The 2012 election completely scrambled the landscape. While the results of the election were different in each state, the post-election landscape had dramatic implications for collaborations, cohesiveness of the movement, strategies employed by partners, and legislative firepower.
  • Pro-immigrant policies are not likely to be exactly replicable elsewhere. There was general acknowledgement by groups in both North Carolina and Colorado that their situations were unique and that it would be difficult to exactly replicate what worked in their states.
  • One primary achievement was an increase in partners' capacity to effectively advocate on the legislative level - either advancing pro-IR policy or mitigating (or deterring) anti-immigrant rights policy. This emerging strength was noted by groups in both North Carolina and Colorado.
  • Groups in both states described a significantly increased comfort level with lobbying and new capacity, in the form of people and tools, to do this work. The immigrant community also strengthened its lobbying capacity. National-level technical assistance support was widely found to build the information base of organizations in Colorado; however, some felt the national partners could have delivered more tailored technical assistance.
  • The role of immigrant-led leadership was contentious. Groups in both North Carolina and Colorado described tension between immigrant-led leadership, paid staff, and volunteers within the movement. They also acknowledged the power and legitimacy of immigrant voices and their rightful place at the table from the very earliest stages.
  • Groups in both North Carolina and Colorado noted tentative new collaborations and alliances. Some new collaboration in both states, particularly with business, agriculture and faith-based groups. However, this phenomenon was more pronounced in Colorado than in North Carolina, and while the latter saw some potential new alliances take shape, it also saw a few existing ones frayed.
  • Overall, more progress has been made in increasing awareness and knowledge, and less progress in increased willingness to support pro-immigrant policies.
  • Groups in both states felt they raised their own profile with legislators over the course of the project. In North Carolina, this included increased interaction with Republican policy makers, a cohort the groups were historically less prepared to cultivate from a legislative perspective. However, awareness did not necessarily translate into willingness to get behind specific policies.
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