A Ripple, Not a Wave: Comparing the Last Decade of Foundation Funding for Migrant Communities and Movements

Oct 27, 2022
  • Description

Since NCRP's first report describing the state of foundation funding for immigrant and refugee groups, the world has grown more dangerous for people on the move.

Although COVID-19 slowed migration for a short time, climate disasters and deteriorating social, political, and economic conditions around the world have led more people to seek homes in new places. In the United States, right-wing politicians have continued their decades-long tactic of treating immigrants and refugees as political pawns. Former President Donald Trump used migrants as an easy scapegoat for division, effectively zeroing the country's refugee resettlement goals throughout his presidential term. In 2021, Customs and Border Protection officers on horseback were caught on camera using whips to drive Haitian asylum seekers away. Several Republican governors sent buses or planes misleading migrants north in a craven political stunt. And after 10 years of instability, the Supreme Court looks poised to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for good, meaning more than 600,000 people who have built their lives in the United States will become vulnerable to deportation. These attacks are unfair and harmful not only to people moving across borders, but to all of us.

NCRP's new data shows that more funders participate in pro-immigrant and pro-refugee philanthropic spaces today than they did in the past. This is progress, but it's far from enough. NCRP also found that the pro-immigrant, pro-refugee movement's share of all foundation grants has shrunk 11% since DACA was first introduced, even as foundations themselves have grown richer. Too many foundations and major donors have ignored groups that are adept at advocating for their communities and holding political leaders accountable. Because of this, the migrant community – and our country – face more precarity today.

In the last few years alone, pro-immigrant and pro-refugee groups have resettled refugees from Afghanistan and Ukraine, advocated for the specific needs of queer migrants, organized Black-led groups in a model of mutual aid, strengthened safeguards for our democracy and focused attention on urgent climate emergencies, all while sounding a constant message of welcome. Migrant organizations, especially movement advocacy groups, have done this in the face of an increasingly hostile political environment with extremely limited resources because funders have fallen short.

Now more than ever, foundations must move with intention and urgency to center, support and follow the lead of the pro-immigrant and pro-refugee movement.

This isn't just the right thing to do. It's also necessary if funders hope to meet their racial justice commitments, support dignity for all and reach groups with underappreciated solutions for each of their "issue" portfolios.

NCRP hopes this tool, informed by the deep wisdom of so many community and philanthropic leaders, will help move the philanthropic sector toward justice.