(A vigil held outside of the Fifth Circuit Courthouse in New Orleans/Marielena Hincapie)
Letter from the Executive Director
June 4, 2015
Welcome back to our newsletter, and welcome to our new website! In both the US and UK, this is a significant time in our fields, with opportunities as well as challenges for Unbound Philanthropy and the organizations that we support. The US in particular is in the midst of struggling to preserve and implement dramatic changes in immigration policy and practice that will affect communities across the country. Our grantees have been at the forefront of pushing for these changes from the top down and the bottom up. They have helped to shape the terms of the debate and coalesce diverse movements by understanding how we are all deeply connected. Following in this newsletter, we share with you what we are accomplishing and learning together.
As our readers know, after years of gridlock in Congress, President Obama broke the impasse in November by announcing his Immigration Accountability Executive Action—potentially the biggest change in US immigration policy in three decades. It promises to give nearly five million unauthorized immigrants, mostly parents of US citizens and lawful permanent residents, the opportunity to apply for temporary work authorization and protection from deportation. Twenty-six states sued to halt implementation of some of the provisions. Despite the temporary legal injunction, on-the-ground groups are aggressively ramping up their service capacity to help a very large new population apply for deferred action when the program begins. Other provisions, such as new enforcement priorities, are being implemented, and advocates are working to ensure that these result in fewer unwarranted deportations. In this newsletter, we share an interview about this bellwether moment with Unbound grantees Marielena Hincapié, Executive Director, and Kamal Essaheb, Immigration Policy Attorney, of the National Immigration Law Center, and Ben Johnson, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council.
Unbound recognizes that this moment presents an opportunity to engage and build the leadership of more immigrant women. Women leaders show how fighting to end criminalization, racial violence, oppression based on gender and sexual orientation, poverty wages, and other forms of injustice can unify a vision of what we are all working for—a world in which all people live with freedom and dignity. We ask Unbound grantees Andrea Mercado, Campaign Director of National Domestic Workers Alliance, Cristina Jimenez, Executive Director of United We Dream, and Nisha Agarwal, the New York City Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs, how we can help nurture greater women’s leadership in the immigrant rights field, as well as in other interlinked social justice movements.
In the UK, the recent election result produced a surprise victory for the Conservative party, previously in coalition with the Liberal Democrats. The next two years promise a series of changes to immigration and human rights, and a huge debate over the UK’s place in the European Union. Tim Finch writes about the election result and how quickly the Conservatives have put forth their immigration proposals, which has some parallels to proponents of restrictionist immigration policies in the US.
One of the distinct features of Unbound’s grantmaking is a systematic effort to bring together our partners in the US and UK to exchange knowledge. Over the last three years, we have supported over twenty organizations and forty individuals to participate in transatlantic learning. In this newsletter, we speak to Unbound grantee Anita Hurrell from Coram Children’s Legal Centre in the UK about the delegation of advocates that she joined in Washington D.C. in March. The group witnessed how communications, community organizing, litigation, and legal services have all been prime contributors to progress in the US toward immigration reform. In addition to gaining these cross-Atlantic lessons, UK advocates also strengthened their ties to one another on the trip. Below, we also hear from UK funders Matthew Smerdon, Chief Executive, and Natalie Byrom, Director of Research and Learning, at the Legal Education Foundation, and Jake Lee, Deputy Director, UK Program at Unbound, about how the learning exchange affected their views and what future work they hope will spring from it.
Finally, we introduce an exciting roster of new arts and culture work aimed at harnessing the power of pop culture to move public opinion positively toward immigrants, people of color, and other strategic constituencies. Toward this goal, Unbound is supporting journalist and filmmaker Jose Antonio Vargas who is partnering with the LA Times to launch #Emerging US—a new multimedia platform that focuses on race, immigration, and identity. We’re also funding a project that enabled actor and comedian Aasif Mandvi to produce the new web series Halal in the Family, a sitcom parody that uses humor to raise awareness about the challenges American Muslims confront while living amid growing hostility and bias.
In the UK, Unbound is supporting Counterpoints Arts, which recently produced the Adopting Britain exhibition with the Southbank Centre, coinciding with the General Election. We also hear from Sophie Henderson, Executive Director of the Migration Museum Project – the first dedicated museum to tell the story of movement into and out of the UK in a fresh and engaging way.
We thank you for being fellow travelers and collaborators with Unbound Philanthropy. Our collective efforts support a vibrant and powerful social justice movement that is transforming individual lives while it pushes for large-scale change, and deepens alliances with other burgeoning movements. Supporting this work has challenged us to be as bold and forward-looking as possible. Unbound literally could not pursue its mission without the co-investment of so many other enlightened funders. For that we are truly grateful.
(The Congress of Day Laborers, a project of the New Orleans Center for Racial Justice, where more than 300 members gathered to prepare for the April 17 Fifth Circuit of Appeals hearing on Obama's immigration action/Marielena Hincapie)
Unbound Philanthropy spoke on May 13 with Marielena Hincapié, Executive Director, and Kamal Essaheb, Immigration Policy Attorney, at the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), and Ben Johnson, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council, to hear more about the status of President Obama’s Immigration Accountability Executive Action, particularly the expansion of the Department of Homeland Security’s use of deferred action to provide temporary protection from removal for millions of undocumented immigrants currently in the US. We also spoke beyond this about their hopes for the future. This interview occurred before the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit declined to lift the injunction on Obama's executive actions.
Taryn Higashi (TH): What do you think the ultimate outcome of the litigation is likely to be?
Marielena Hincapié(MH): We continue to believe that we are on the right side of the law and the right side of history; and NILC believes that at some point, the implementation of DACA and DAPA plus will go into effect and the courts will find that the President’s Executive Action is within his constitutional authority.
There are a number of scenarios for both the emergency request to stay the preliminary injunction and for the appeal of the Texas district court’s decision to issue a preliminary injunction. A major point to make, from our perspective, is that the suing states are trying to delay implementation as much as possible. So they will use every legal step at their recourse. On our end, we want to fast-track the litigation.
So if the stay is approved, Texas and the States are likely to appeal and that will take some months. If we win the stay and win the appeal, they will probably go to the Supreme Court to overturn the stay. If the Fifth Circuit denies the stay, that means the injunction remains in place. We will urge the Department of Justice to take the matter directly to the Supreme Court, so we could move forward with implementation as soon as possible.
We are also having conversations with movement leaders about pressuring the Administration to adopt other forms of relief while we wait. NILC is working to seek alignment in our requests of the administration. These could include setting up a simple process for individuals to use existing Deferred Action processes and robust implementation of the new enforcement priorities set forth in the President’s Executive Actions.
TH: How is the nationwide planning for implementation of Obama's Executive Action being adjusted to adapt to the litigation? What have you been telling immigrant communities?
Ben Johnson (BJ): The folks who have been working on implementation have shifted to being part of the conversation, educating people about what this lawsuit might mean. I think the new power of the immigration reform movement and the on-the-ground capacity and political organization has been on display.
In terms of what I have been telling people, there are lots of different messages: one, explaining and encouraging forward movement and preparation. I continue to believe that ultimately we will succeed in the litigation; whether that’s in time for meaningful implementation is still an open question. But ultimately, I think we will prevail on the legal merits, so we have been encouraging folks to be prepared when the opportunity comes up. Also, to be blunt, I’ve been talking to folks about how unfortunate it is that the judicial branch of government is being dragged into the dysfunctional politics around immigration, and that the judge in Texas has become another political actor in the immigration debate. If the courts are going to be a recurring battleground on immigration, then we have to be prepared to be there and to win. The good news is that the immigrant communities, that the anti-immigrant movement is so afraid of, continue to be valuable, contributing members of communities and economies all around the country, and more and more cities and states are recognizing the need to be a welcoming place for immigrants rather than buying into the politics of fear.
MH: Two additional reflections: any time I think of immigration and immigrants in particular, I think of how immigrants affect every area of society, and so does immigration. And historically, it’s not surprising that we’re in the courts. Often times, the courts are the place where we can defend our constitutional rights. I think that the immigrant rights movement has used this period to show our power, to show the strength of the movement.
TH: What strategies are being used to try to impact the litigation?
MH: We spent three days in New Orleans before the hearing for activities organized by the New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice [an Unbound grantee]. The night before, there was a powerful faith vigil with a diverse set of faith leaders. The power was palpable—all these religious faith leaders pointing to the Fifth Circuit—praying directly to the judges who would be hearing the next day. The day of the rally and the hearing, it was hard to stay focused and to hear the lawyers, because the chanting from the local community members, and those that came from neighboring states, and the brass band outside, were sometimes louder than the arguments happening inside. And then there were all the immigrants themselves who were in the room. It was important to show the judges who and what was at stake, and who would benefit or who would lose from their decisions ultimately.
Kamal Essaheb (KB): I think our side has done a good job of identifying and unearthing as many potential supporters of Executive Action as possible and giving them an opportunity to write and join amicus briefs and to contribute work towards a favorable outcome in this case.
TH: Could you comment on the other benefits that the President’s Executive Action announcement contained?
BJ: I think the memos and the parts of Executive Action that are still enforced are critically important because DACA has the opportunity to change real lives, right now. The enforcement memo not only has the chance to impact lives, but the potential to give us a platform to talk about how we should be enforcing immigration law. [Immigration law] is not criminal law. This is law that impacts families that are trying to make a better life for themselves. It needs to be administered and enforced with a profound respect for the people who are caught up in the immigration system. This is a chance to demand a sea change in how we think of immigrants.
One key indicator of whether we are making progress on this would be the treatment of refugee families and children that are coming in. We must demand that they be beneficiaries of this new thinking around enforcement.
KE: I think the prosecutorial discretion memo is huge. There is an opportunity to hold the president at his word: at a town hall in Miami he said that any immigration officers who don’t follow the rules that he laid out in November are going to be held accountable. There should be a zero tolerance policy for officers not following the rules, in this case, deporting individuals who are non-priorities. I also think this is an opportunity to fully implement DACA.
TH: What do you make of Hillary Clinton’s recent statement that she would not only continue, but expand Obama’s Executive Actions?
MH: From our perspective at NILC, we feel that it’s critical that all candidates speak to these issues, because for immigrant communities in particular, they will get that soundbite on their local news.
BJ: The 2016 elections are going to be a sea change in how folks talk about these issues. Folks on the right are clearly walking on eggshells more than they ever have before—that’s more evident than any presidential election I’ve seen on the issue of immigration. This is definitely a transitional political election season where we have the opportunity to set a new tone on immigration. The more that we can define what is acceptable and unacceptable— like we have seen with the marriage equality issue or on racial issues—the more we can do that on immigration issues, the more impossible it becomes to go back to the ugly rhetoric and proposals we have seen in past campaigns. That is huge progress.
TH: Is there anything else that you’d like to share?
MH: I want to share a reminder that the investments funders have made over several decades have gotten us to this point. When you take them all together, the combination of DAPA, DACA, the workers’ rights taskforce, the immigrant integration taskforce—all amount to the most significant immigration policy changes in decades. The promise is still there. The ability to eventually implement all of them really depends on resources being there. We need to be able to defend this victory. I would urge foundations to not get scared away by the injunction. There’s probably never been more of an urgent time for everyone to be aligned to make sure this victory can become a reality for immigrants. The enforcement priorities are something we have fought for a number of years. If we can make sure that they can become a reality, and that the administration holds its agents accountable, that alone will have a significant impact on the majority of the undocumented immigrants. That, coupled with other state and local victories, is what we can achieve at the local level to improve people’s lives.
June 1, 2015
By Tim Finch
Nearly a month on and friends of all political sympathies still say they wake up and can’t quite believe it. In a result almost no one predicted, the Conservatives won the British General Election with a clear, if small, majority. Across a range of policy areas, not least migration, the party has the chance to prosecute its own agenda much more decisively than it expected. Yet the UK is changing in many ways, and is facing some seismic events, which may mean that migration policy takes rather different directions.
Having spectacularly failed to deliver on their 2010 “no ifs, no buts” pledge to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands from the hundreds of thousands; having reframed the pledge as a longer term “ambition” in their 2015 manifesto; and having successfully played down immigration as a major theme during the campaign, it was plausible that the Conservatives might display a more relaxed attitude to immigration following their victory on 7th May. But two weeks later, new migration statistics came out, showing net migration at near record levels (well above 300,000), and the Prime Minister immediately responded with more restrictive measures.
The most striking of these were pledges to curb skilled migration from outside the EU, one of the migration routes which most clearly benefits the British economy and about which the public worries least. Another area where the government has signalled a clamp down is on labour market rules. And while, in a surprise move, the plans to scrap the Human Rights Acts and replace it with a British Bill of Rights have been delayed, it is likely that a further erosion of migrant rights is on the cards.
All of this comes ahead of the flagship policy of holding an in/out referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union. Of course, if the UK were to leave the EU, free movement to and from the country would end. But even the Prime Minister’s preferred outcome – a renegotiation of the UK terms of membership and a vote to stay in – is likely to result in significant changes to EU migration. As David Cameron has said, changes to benefit access and other reforms are “an absolute requirement in the renegotiation.”
This prospectus would appear to offer little ground for optimism among those who would like to see the advance of more open and progressive attitudes towards migration. However, in the longer term, the outlook may turn out to be more benign. A recent paper by the UK think tank, Policy Exchange, argued that various “megatrends” – the growth of ethnic minority populations, the rise of cities and increasing levels of education, etc. – point to a more “cosmopolitan future” for Britain. Some of the societal trends highlighted by another think tank, British Future, [an Unbound grant-holder] also suggest a more conducive environment will develop—with Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) voters being a significant force; many more communities characterised by diversity; and socially liberal attitudes becoming more prevalent.
And the make up of the new parliament; early evidence of voting patterns, including BME voters; and polling done by a centre right body, Bright Blue, suggest that even the Conservative party is changing fast in this direction.
Tim Finch is the former Director of Communications at the Institute for Public Policy Research and the Refugee Council.
(Panel on "Halal in the Family" web series, starring Aasif Mandvi, at the Ford Foundation/ Ford Foundation)
Conversation with Mik Moore, Principal, and Miriam Fogelson, Senior Associate, Moore + Associates, about Halal in the Family: April 28, 2015
Taryn Higashi (TH): Halal in the Family has been getting a lot of exciting media attention. Have there been any surprises in the responses or ways that the media is talking about the series?
Miriam Fogelson (MF): All the press has been positive. I am surprised because I was expecting more of a backlash from right wing media and the organized Islamophobia network.
Mik Moore (MM): Some articles had sophisticated analysis about what the series is meant to do and where it fits into the broader popular culture. This was not just coming from us, but from the writers themselves.
MF: Yes, without us spelling it out in our press release, a lot of outlets are connecting the dots. They are talking about the lack of Muslims in Hollywood and how that impacts the way Muslims are viewed in this country.
TH: How are Muslim human rights groups using the content? How are they reacting to the webisodes?
MM: They’re sharing it with their communities. They’re doing screenings and in-person engagement with the series. There’s been interest in developing a curriculum around it. The screenings have been popular among the organizations and give people a chance to get direct feedback and answer questions.
TH: Do you have any information about who is watching the webisodes? Is there any evidence—anecdotal or otherwise—that the webisodes are reaching "new" audiences?
MM: There are things we can extrapolate from the data and there is hard data. We can extrapolate geographic and gender breakdown because we are supplementing the video outreach with paid advertising. We have used that to make sure we are reaching our persuadable category/audience, and we have some interesting data. If you compare someone who self identifies as an independent versus someone who identifies themselves as a Democrat, the person who identifies themselves as Democrat is twice as likely to watch the video as someone who identifies as independent. This is across all videos.
TH: Is Halal in the Family teaching you anything new about comedy’s role in engaging the public on a difficult issue? Or your understanding of what works and what doesn’t and why?
MM: Halal in the Family is both a satire and a parody of sitcom. It’s clear from reading comments and questions received that for some people, either or both can go over their heads.*
MF: It’s been interesting to see how people respond. It’s been helpful to have the screenings to engage in dialogue. There are questions about why are we doing what we are doing, and why we chose to present the family this way. After we give an explanation, it seems like a light bulb goes off and people see the series differently.
Overall, seeing the reaction in the media and how people are responding affirms our theory that if we’re using comedy to try to get a conversation started and reach new audiences to pay attention, comedy—and risky comedy—is important. We didn’t want to water down the humor, and we took some risks and put in some content that would shock people. But without that, we wouldn’t have gotten the media coverage. The media loves comedy and controversy. We delivered both. And the reach of the media coverage has been great; it will allow us to reach the more persuadable audience.
TH: In your wildest dreams, if funders could help you do anything you want, what would it be? What would you wish for?
MM: Speaking more broadly, we would love for there to be a place where people developing these kinds of projects can go to more quickly to pull funding together.
TH: Would this be a fund like Sundance fund for documentary filmmakers? Or just a group of funders willing to bet on this type of project based on a track record of success?
MM: Last year at [Unbound grantee] Opportunity Agenda's Creative Change retreat I had a brainstorm that somebody should create a Good Pitch for a comedy web video or web video more broadly. There is a shift of mentality around what web videos are capable of and how they should be funded. There are lots of models to use or borrow from the documentary film space.
MF: By Ford and Unbound taking a chance, it has proved our success and made it easier to take that risk and easier to get resources. If there are opportunities to bring creative people and issue area experts together, amazing things can happen. When people learn about the work we do, there is a lot of interest. The barrier is finding the financing for them.
TH: Miriam, what would you wish for?
MF: It would be great to have a curriculum and outreach strategy to use the show as a teaching tool, and get it into the hands of schools and universities.
*However, the views on Funny or Die, response from fans, and media coverage (see these articles in The Guardian, The Nation, and The New York Times), show that there is an audience that understands and appreciates our approach.
(Jose Antonio Vargas speaks with a small group of students at the University of Minnesota Law School on April 14, 2015 in Minneapolis, Minnesota/ Michael Conti, © 2015 Define American)
Conversation with Jose Antonio Vargas, Founder, and Ryan Eller, Executive Director, Define American: May 14, 2015
Taryn Higashi (TH): Could you tell us about your partnership with the LA Times and #EmergingUS?
Jose Antonio Vargas (JV): #EmergingUS.com is launching this summer—around the fourth anniversary of Define American's founding. We have been referring to #EmergingUS as a digital magazine. The first video that we’re featuring is on #BlackLivesMatter, featuring the three founders, who are all women. We are also going to have a podcast series called The Invisibles, about housekeepers, construction workers, telling their stories in their own voice about what it’s like to work in LA. We will have Undocumented Chronicles, a column that I will anchor, all about undocumented people. Another section is Citizen USA. It will be a great way to complement the work we do at Define American and distribute our content, and vice versa. And we have a section called the White Pages, all about white Americans as an emerging racial minority in the US.
I am also working on a film called White People, with MTV, which follows five people to tell the story of a changing America, and the fact that young whites are now minorities in their schools. We profile a young woman in Arizona who believes she didn’t get a scholarship because Hispanics took all of the scholarships; it’s actually factually incorrect. Another part is in Bensonhurst. We meet an Italian family and talk through what it’s like to be in a changing community, one that shifted from predominantly Italian to Chinese. We get to create a campaign about young white Americans and immigration, and tie race and immigration together in a way that’s accessible, constructive, and provocative.
TH: How did the idea emerge?
JV: I’ve been interested for a decade in how white people think of race. Immigrants, and people of color always get asked where we’re from, and we never ask white people where they’re from. We can’t really talk about race without talking about whiteness. We can’t talk to young white people about immigration if they don’t realize their own immigration story. I’ve been to 190 college campuses now in 4 years. Now, especially when I go to conservative places, I try to push people into this question of, ‘What are you, Where did you come from? How did you get here? And who paid?’
TH: With the MTV platform, how do you see it reaching new audiences?
JV: Talking to young students, especially college students, has been really effective. We are talking to mostly white, some black students, about immigration, and taking it out of the US/Mexico border, Latino idea in their minds. That’s how we see the White People project reaching a different audience. We know that when you mobilize a group of people—this is not just about the DREAMers—these are the ones who haven’t been mobilized, or don’t think immigration is about them. And since it’s going to be free, we can build a set of programming and curriculum around it to engage that community. Getting colleges to talk about immigration is hard, but getting them to talk about white privilege is easy, and as much as we can tie immigration to that, in a natural and accessible way, the better.
TH: Looking at Documented for a moment, what evidence do you have of its impact on people’s attitudes?
Ryan Eller: We’ve had about 40 classrooms that are piloting use of the curriculum. They do everything from art projects to storytelling where they interview each other; to using the film as an entryway to do literacy education, so folks tell their own story; to civics where people investigate their immigration story. We’re getting HR departments using the film to talk about diversity. In Long Island, in Suffolk County where there have been hate crimes against Latino immigrants, the police department is using it in their training. We’re estimating that 350,000 people have now seen the film. We’ve had thousands of people join on social media.
TH: Why did you choose to start #EmergingUS with the video on #BlackLivesMatter?
JV: #EmergingUS has a hashtag in it, and #BlackLivesMatter, from social/online activism, outside from the Arab Spring, is probably the most effective, controversial, and necessary hashtag-driven movement. Part of the packaging of this is how do you tell the story of the #Not1More Campaign as a hashtag. I felt that that video expresses the vision and tone of the magazine. Right now, The New York Times doesn’t have a single reporter that covers race full time. The Washington Post doesn’t have a reporter that covers immigration full time. This magazine is about race, immigration, and identity.
TH: How has #BlackLivesMatter influenced the immigrant rights movement?
JV: Opal’s parents, Nigerians, were undocumented for a while, and she talks about them in the video. If you go to the #BlackLivesMatter website, you will see immigration—and LGBTQ rights—are front and center in how they talk about #BlackLivesMatter. The movement has become very male-dominated. All of the spokespeople and the people who the media contact to speak about it are male; TIME magazine put #BlackLivesMatter on the cover and never contacted these women who founded it. And it’s become solely about policing. It was fascinating to hear them unpack that, and broaden it. For me, the biggest reason we chose it to be the inaugural video is because it talks about intersectionality in a very organic, accessible way.
(Visitors adding their migration stories to the Adopting Britain exhibition, London/Counterpoints Arts)
Conversation with Almir Koldzic, Counterpoints Arts: April 29, 2015
Taryn Higashi (TH): You have a lot of highly visible projects going on right now: the Southbank Centre’s “Adopting Britain” exhibition, Refugee Week, Platforma, to name a few. Could you share a few key highlights of these projects? What are you most excited about? How are communities engaging with these projects?
Almir Koldzic (AK): We’re really excited about the Adopting Britain exhibition at the Southbank Centre. The exhibition is about telling the story of migration to Britain over the last 70 years. Our big and in some ways wonderful challenge was how to select a small number of representative stories of individuals and communities, who have come to the UK, settled, and contributed in a variety of ways. Our intention was to complicate the story of migration in some ways, but to also make it accessible. So far, the feedback has been really good. We expect between 30,000-50,000 people to engage with the exhibition. There are huge audiences who regularly come to the Southbank Centre for other events and reasons, so a proportion of those would come to see the exhibition. In partnership with other exhibition contributors (i.e. The Migration Museum), we also take part in tours and activities linked to it.
Another exciting element of this exhibition is that it has enabled us to start talking about creating a longer term partnership with the Southbank Centre, where we hope to regularly feature artists from our networks and profile exciting work emerging in this field. So, for Refugee Week 2015, for the first time ever, Southbank Centre will have their program lasting a whole week.
TH: Does this project take you to a different audience?
AK: Absolutely. In many ways, this is what you would call a mainstream audience: literally from all ages, all groups. Southbank has a big reputation as a national institution that can bring in people we would not be able to reach otherwise.
TH: How have current migration issues—the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean, the elections—affected these exhibitions?
AK: Southbank said from the outset, the election is coming up, and we know migration will feature prominently, so we want to make a contribution to this debate and would like to work with you on it. But as a charity and inclusive organization they would not want to embrace or criticize specific parties. So how do you tell the story that challenges views, but is not overtly didactic or criticizes people for their views.
In terms of other current issues including the Mediterranean crisis, there is an ongoing conversation about what can possibly be done about it beyond writing to your MPs or joining an online campaign. It all feels distant and our collective challenge is how do we bring it closer to audiences here, make links to our lives here. In June this year we’re organizing dis/placed - a week-long progamme of events in response to global demographic shifts and unprecedented levels of human displacement. It will feature over 40 artists plus learning labs, discussions and performances exploring related themes. That is our attempt to make a contribution to addressing this specific issue.
TH: What is your wishlist for grantmakers?
AK: Getting more support for this area of work and especially for communicating the stories about this work. We sit between the arts and advocacy worlds. In the advocacy world, there are communications groups and some media links. In the arts world, it’s much thinner in terms of infrastructure. We don’t have extensive media connections. Some support in that field would be great, as it could also help us find ways of better promoting emerging creative voices.
Conversation with Sophie Henderson, Migration Museum Project: April 23, 2015
Taryn Higashi (TH): What role do you have in the Adopting Britain exhibition?
Sophie Henderson (SH): The Migration Museum Project has two exhibits there: 100 Images of Migration, which is a series of photograph that we collected from the public– from professional and amateur photographers alike. A few of the images represent famous people or well-known events, but most tell personal, individual tales. The exhibition has toured to various venues in the UK over the last couple of years. It seems to strike a chord wherever it goes, and to touch people. The other display is a lovely one called Keepsakes. It’s about things that individuals cherish, and might choose to hand down within families. Whereas museums tend to collect and interpret objects that are relevant to the story of the nation, the things that people collect and hand on within families probably matter far more to them personally. This is a display of 10 keepsakes, which speak of migration and identity with their accompanying stories.
TH: What kind of responses have you been getting?
SH: The Southbank Centre is extremely popular. It’s a well-visited and democratic space, an effective public building. It’s always buzzing. There are a number of points at which visitors to Adopting Britain can engage with the exhibition, for example by writing down what objects they might take with them if forced to leave for another country. It is quite clear that there are very high levels of participation. We are busy collecting as much information as possible from visitors to the exhibition so as to evaluate its impact over the six months that it is on.
TH: Can you talk about your work with the Leicester School of Museum Studies?
SH: Three years ago, we partnered with The Guardian to ask members of the public to send images that speak about migration. This was something that we were able to do at an early stage in our development when we simply had a website and no more. We received 700 entries and picked 100 winners. Leicester School of Museum Studies took it up and re-curated the exhibition, which was first shown at Hackney Museum in London, and put some of the images in public spaces, including in Leicester train station and around the university campus. They created digital labels and accompanying films, and made use of a smartphone augmented reality app called Blippar to enhance the experience. The exhibition is also on show at the Heritage Gallery in Greenwich. One of the strengths of the exhibition is that it is made up of a dynamic and growing bank of images and that it constantly changes – it can mutate and grow, taking on local or topical flavor wherever it is shown.
TH: What else do you have planned for your education programs?
SH: We’ve applied for funding to deliver workshops in schools, which encourage students to look at their migration history in the context of their local areas. We want to create a pilot in four schools initially and to begin to spread ourselves nationally a bit more, and more systematically. We want to develop a template for deep learning about migration in the schools that we can then roll out. We also have an exciting plan to deliver a series of theatre workshops exploring migration-related issues in schools, in partnership with a professional theatre company and emerging young playwrights.
TH: If you could make one wish for funders, what would it be?
SH: My wish for funders is that more of them would - like Unbound - recognise the real need that organisations like ours have for core, in addition to project funds. What is gratifying is when funders take a real interest in what you do and place a limited degree of trust in you to deliver meaningful outputs. None of that is to say that there is any less of a need for monitoring and evaluation - of course organisations must be held to account and required to demonstrate both a need for what they do and that they are achieving their desired impact. However, against that background, it is refreshing when a funder takes the trouble to get to know you as an organisation and is prepared to help with things like salaries and running costs - these are some of the least glamorous but, but most important, aspects of what organisations like ours do.
(New York City Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs Commissioner Agarwal greets the 17 new fellows who are part of the Fellowship for Immigrant Women Leaders/ Mayors Office of Immigrant Affairs)
Conversation with Andrea Mercado, Campaign Director of National Domestic Workers Alliance, Cristina Jimenez, Executive Director of United We Dream, and Nisha Agarwal, the New York City Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs:
April 30, 2015
Taryn Higashi (TH): Nisha, could you share with us some of the pionerring work you’re doing on immigrant women’s leadership in New York?
Nisha Agarwal (NA): Thanks to the support of Unbound, we are creating a fellowship for 25-30 emerging immigrant women leaders. The idea is to bring them together once every couple of weeks, so they can build relationships among eachother, and with city government leaders. We want emerging immigrant women leaders to know, ‘You too could work in city government, or wherever you choose.’
Andrea Mercado (AM): I am curious, Nisha, if you are connecting the leadership of women to a policy platform?
NA: There are so many big issues that are moving through the city right now: the reworking of the workforce development system, educational and children’s issues. I don’t know that we’ve lifted up the gender lens as explicitly as we could. My hope is that in these conversations [among the fellows] there is discussion about women’s contributions to these fields, and the particular needs of immigrant women; maybe they will surface new strategies or interventions.
TH: Andrea, can you share with us highlights from the work you’re doing on immigrant women’s leadership or issues?
AM: In our We Belong Together campaign, we illustrated the importance of looking at policy through a gender lens. One example is only a quarter of all employment visas go to women [Ed. note: more than half of all arriving immigrants are women.] So many women who come in to this country—even with visas—are coming in relationship to their husbands’ employment visa and don’t have the ability to work legally. These women not only face obstacles contributing to the economy of our country, but also, a woman on a spousal visa who faces domestic violence may fear speaking out against an abusive spouse because of the fear of deportation, making her more vulnerable.
With We Belong Together, we’ve been looking at evidentiary hurdles and financial barriers for immigrant women to access Administrative Relief; how immigrant women in the labor force are earning less than any other demographic, and how do we strengthen workers’ protections for immigrant women. We’re also asking what are the ways we’re advocating for ending the harsh enforcement and criminalization of undocumented immigrant women, and ending family detention of women and children? Right now, there are women imprisoned with their children inside immigration detention centers, fighting for and demanding freedom. We are figuring out, what are the ways women across the country can stand with detained women on the frontlines?
NA: One of the things that [National Domestic Worker’s Alliance] has done well is build links with immigrant and non-immigrant women. We are trying to make the immigrant movement feel like an issue that affects us all. The example of the family detention center, and the ways in which women are organizing and lifting up their stories has resonance. How do we lift up those stories even more to build solidarity among different communities, so the immigration movement becomes a bigger, connected movement?
AM: In the last few years we’ve witnessed a vibrant and militant immigrant rights movement. There’s also been an explosion of the movement for black self-determination and freedom. In this moment, we can look at the intersection of the incarceration of immigrant women and children, and how that resistance mirrors the resistance amongst black people who are currently incarcerated. Our movements have been pretty narrow, in ways that limit political opportunities for deep and nuanced collaboration. We have the opportunity to come together in new ways, to build the movement infrastructures and relationships that we need if we are serious about dismantling the criminalization that impacts women.
NA: That is totally right. When you talk about local victories, how do you make those ideas real at the local level? I think about the “fight for fifteen” [the fight for a minimum wage of $15] and how there were so many women stepping forward saying ‘Here is why these exploitative jobs and wages don’t work for us.’ This is so similar to immigrant workers—and immigrant women workers in particular—stepping forward. There is a lot to mine for exciting new ideas and campaigns.
(Cristina Jimenez joins)
TH: Cristina, could you update us about the important new work that United We Dream is developing on immigrant women’s leadership?
Cristina Jimenez (CJ): The majority of our leaders, members, organizers and staff are young immigrant women. During our regional retreats and strategy meetings, women started sharing their experiences, about organizing their communities or leading their organizations. In the same way that we developed our LGBTQ program (Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project/QUIP), we decided to create a space for the women in our network to have conversations. Every year during the fall, we host regional gatherings. At these gatherings, we began to create optional meetings for women—after dinner or lunch—and they were all very well attended. What was clear from these conversations is that women in our network are in need and want the network to step in to provide support for their development as leaders and organizers.
The second thing that came up was having space to talk about other issues that women in our constituency are facing. Issues around domestic violence and reproductive rights and alcoholism in households came up a lot. We’re trying to refine what our Women’s Initiative could do in its pilot stage to address some of these needs. A concrete step is a mentorship model, where we have a clear pipeline for women’s leadership development and coaching for their organizing and leadership experience.
NA: If you create a space, people will come. Something similar thing happened for us in city government. Informally, a group of women leaders in city government came together and said, ‘There are so many of us, but we don’t know each other—let’s have a dinner where we get together and see each other and interact.’ It was wildly successful, and we are going to keep getting together. [Our meetings] are creating more of an identity for us as women leaders than if we were just carrying on independently in our own role.
TH: Has there been any resistance that you’ve faced, internally or externally? Any challenges to note?
CJ: Within the leadership of the UWD network there was a lot of excitement [about our Women’s Initiative], mainly because we’re mostly women. When we had the meeting at the regional level, some of the men felt uncomfortable. There wasn’t explicit resistance, but implicit resistance from some members. It is similar to when we started to talk about intersectionality with LGBTQ immigrant youth, and now, when we have conversations about black and brown communities, issues of criminalization, and police brutality. The big light bulb is, We can’t assume that our membership is with us, yet. There is work we need to do to get our folks to understand, and for us to do some consciousness-building and awareness work. A challenge is figuring out how we launch the program in a way that meets our capacity. People have a lot of energy, but we need to take it in small steps because we want to do it well.
NA: We face a challenge of how do we have a coherent gender equity approach citywide. There was a committee on the status of women in city government; it will now be reshaped and called the Commission on Gender Equity. What does that mean and look like? The good news is we have smaller projects in each of our agencies, but then, what does that add up to? We are still figuring that out.
TH: Any further thoughts?
AM: How do we have a more expansive definition of womanhood and what women’s priorities are? The women’s movement has been conceptualized and narrowly focused on reproductive rights for some time in the mainstream discourse. Partly what immigrant women’s leadership brings into the women’s movement is understanding that immigrant rights are a women’s issue, like the fight against mass incarceration, and the fight for trans women’s rights, and LGBTQ rights, are women’s issues. How do we reconceptualize the women’s movement for the 21st century?
With Administrative Relief, you can take a gender cut on so many aspects of it, like how so many women are working off the books, as domestic workers, or as restaurant workers, or stay at home moms. How do we make sure programs that are designed to provide relief are accessible to as many women as possible?
NA: There’s a book, This Bridge called My Back, about immigrant women and women of color speaking to the mainstream feminist movement, saying ‘Where are we in this dialogue?’ It captured my attention when I was younger because I never really felt a connection to the mainstream women’s movement, even though I was an activist at an early age. The issues I thought my mom, as an immigrant woman, grappled with, were not reflected in the women’s movement. Meanwhile, I would travel to different parts of the world and see women organizing and I felt like there was a disconnect, and sadly, I think there’s still that disconnect. There needs to be a discussion on what does a revamped women’s movement look like that is truly inclusive of all these perspectives.
When I transitioned into immigration work in a focused way several years ago, it was the moment of my professional career where I felt the most gender inequity. I would be in rooms that were male dominated; men’s voices and men’s leadership were profiled. I felt more silenced than I would have expected in a social justice movement.
CJ: I’m so glad you mentioned that! Just recently, I started to get invitations to panel conversations and meetings hosted by some of the mainstream women’s groups or foundations working on women and girls issues. Because I am in a space of people of color all the time, it’s been an interesting place to transition to, realizing there are few women of color in those spaces. I was also typically the youngest, and the only immigrant woman. My immediate observation is that there aren’t a lot of women who look like me in those spaces. I’ve been questioning why that is, and wanting those spaces to have more people who look like me.
AM: We’ve been creating an on-ramp for mainstream women’s organizations to get into the fight, and not only support the issue but lift up immigrant women in leadership in the immigrant rights movement
TH: If you could make a wish for the funding community—on immigrant rights, women’s rights, broader—what would it be?
NA: Creating more spaces for conversations like this! Some of the best relationships I’ve built, and ideas I’ve had, have come from being in the same space with other likeminded women.
AM: Yes, there should be more resources for women to convene and to bear witness together. There are ideas, creativity, and a spirit of rich thinking that we can build with each other in person that there is not substitute for.
CJ: Particularly for our constituency, there is a need to have a clear pipeline to nurture the leadership of young immigrant women, in different sectors. Currently, the leadership development that happens is informal. I’ve been feeling the urgency to have a more intentional and strategic way to nurture that leadership for our community.
NA: I totally agree with that. Women don’t see that they can go into certain domains, even if they may want to. Why do we close off doors implicitly without realizing it? Leadership development spaces, in particular for young women of color, is crucial to help create the vision for what women’s leadership looks like in its fullest form.
Also, there’s a concept of sponsorship: we need to shine a light on women leaders doing incredible work. It’s not just enough to give advice to younger women who I mentor, I also need to tell others, ‘Wow, that young woman is a rock star!’ If you don’t tell people what to look at that’s great, they won’t always just naturally look at it, especially when you’re talking about women of color. We need to broaden who people see when they’re looking for women leaders.
In March, a delegation of advocates from the UK who work with young people traveled to Washington, D.C. for a learning exchange, to share lessons about advocacy, civic engagement, and legal services delivery. The theme of the visit was how NGOs in the US have responded to Administrative Relief. America’s Voice was the host organization, and the exchange was supported by the Legal Education Foundation and Unbound.
We recently spoke with Anita Hurrell, Legal and Policy Officer at Coram Children’s Legal Centre, who was part of the delegation, as well as with Matthew Smerdon, Chief Executive, and Natalie Byrom, Director of Research and Learning, at the Legal Education Foundation, and Jake Lee, Deputy Director, UK Program at Unbound Philanthropy, to hear their perspectives about the exchange.
Grantee perspective on the learning exchange—conversation with Anita Hurrell: April 27, 2015
Taryn Higashi (TH): What were your biggest takeaways from the learning exchange?
Anita Hurrell (AH): There were a number of main takeaways for me. First was the importance of communications. Many organizations that we met with highlighted just how important communications capacity is to them.
The second was the central role of community organizing in building the movement and creating the push for reform. In the UK, our community organizing is a lot less developed, and it’s not a central plank of the immigration reform movement. We saw incredible organizing at CASA de Maryland, and at United We Dream we saw organizing among young people, particularly those who can tell their own stories themselves—that was enormously powerful.
Third, how lawyers fit into the landscape of immigration reform, how lawyers can back up and defend political wins with detailed legal analysis.
Fourth, seeing legal service delivery on such a massive scale, for instance at CASA and CLINIC. It blew our minds! It’s such a huge service provision.
Fifth, we saw the amazing potential of pro bono. Pro bono in its infancy in the UK, and there is some resistance to embracing what pro bono can do.
TH: Is one concern in the UK that, as you’re fighting for government funding to be reinstated, you don’t want the government to say, ‘Pro bono can take care of the need’?
AH: Absolutely. For example, there was a proposal a couple of years ago for a residence test for civil legal aid. A challenge was brought, and the case was successful: it found that the test would have been discriminatory and unlawful. We’re still in the phase where we’re defending what we have. We are conscious of arguments the government might use to say civil legal aid isn’t needed, and that pro bono or civil society can fill the gaps. As a result, one of the biggest differences in legal services provision is that there is a greater and more successful use of pro bono for legal services delivery in the US. KIND is such a successful example of high quality legal services delivered to vulnerable children. On the trip, we had our eyes opened to the amazing potential when people have a vision and they work towards that.
TH: Are there other differences between the US and UK related to advocacy and civic engagement?
AH: Yes, the central role of organizing. In the immigration movement in the UK, the voices of those who have been affected by immigration control don’t necessarily come to the fore. That’s one of the areas where I think we have the most work to do.
TH: Would those voices have the same kind of powerful effect in the UK?
AH: I think they would. What really struck us on the visit was the courage and strength of the young people who have come out, because of the risks involved. In the UK, the political climate is very different. We’ve had some bad experiences of young people speaking out. I think it’s partly about fostering an environment in which young people themselves will want to organize, speak out, and talk about their concerns, experiences, and stories.
TH: Were there any unexpected benefits of the learning exchange?
AH: I was surprised by how much of a difference it made to be with a group of people from the UK, having time to talk and discuss away from our normal lives. That was unexpected.
Funders’ perspective on the learning exchange—conversation with Matthew Smerdon, Natalie Byrom, and Jake Lee: April 28, 2015
Taryn Higashi (TH): What are your overall reflections from the learning exchange?
Matthew Smerdon (MS): People have described the trip as “life changing.” You shouldn’t underestimate the power of these sorts of initiatives and the value of simply spending time with each other. Even on the plane over, there was a lovely, collegiate spirit that we hope will be the beginnings of lasting working relationships. Additionally, Unbound's idea to focus on a particular issue and work that through, in terms of the context, how the policy was won and how it will be delivered was a very clever way to take away lessons. And the people we met with were terrific.
TH: Are there lessons from the foundation perspective?
MS: One of the key things was just how significant foundation funding has been for that sector. The scale of funding is so much greater than in the UK. There are a number of steps that we can take to build the levels of funding. We are talking about a mapping study, to see what funding goes into the law, to establish a baseline.
Jake Lee (JL): As a funder, you got to see the benefits of bringing grantees together, away from their day-to-day work. It was refreshing to see people being energized by being brought away somewhere where legal advice provision funded by the state is nonexistent, and seeing NGOs that work despite that policy environment.
TH: Were there any unexpected surprises that emerged? And would you do anything differently in the future?
JL: We didn’t use the opportunity to bring together US grantees. We could make it more two-way; there are certainly lessons that could travel in the opposite direction.
TH: Could you comment on the value of making a trip like this, as a funder, with grantees?
Natalie Byrom (NB): We learned a lot about our grantees, seeing them in a different context, to see them in a holistic context.
MS: They also learned about us, about what we do, our motivations and experiences. It worked well for people at different stages in their careers to spend time together. Participant selection is key, making sure you have a good dynamic. It’s well worth investing time and effort in.
JL: As funders, you get to see the origin of ideas that may go on to be future grants.
We are pleased to share the following staffing updates
The following staff joined:
Dipty Jain, Interim Director of Finance and Operations, January 2015
Lucie March, Special Assistant to the Executive Director, April 2015
Julia Yang-Winkenbach, US Program Assistant, January 2015
The following staff have title changes:
Paulette Amadi, Grants Officer, UK Program
Bernadette Crasto, Office and Administrative Manager
Celeste Dado, Senior Manager, Grants Compliance and Operations
Jake Lee, Deputy Director, UK Program
To read their bios, visit our Team and Board page.
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