Leaders Call for More Investments to Support Black-Led Migrant Groups & Leaders

Written by: Jennifer Amuzie

Date: October 18, 2021

Emergency Call Highlights Systemic Shortfalls In Funding Black Immigrant and Refugee Support  

This fall’s images of Border Patrol officers on horseback back using whips to drive Haitian asylum seekers across the Mexican border was a horrifying spectacle that highlighted the dire programmatic and funding challenges that Black-led migrant organizations face on an almost daily basis.  

Soon after these images went viral, a coalition of frontline leaders, nonprofits and philanthropy sector groups that included Unbound Philanthropy, Four Freedoms Fund, NCRP, HIP, FFJ and GCIR convened a call so that funders could hear directly from national and local Black-led migrant justice organizations about what was needed. Organizers stressed that funders need to see Black migrant communities’ full humanity, not just the trauma captured in the news, and fund accordingly 

Leaders on the call challenged funders in the coming weeks to raise at least 10 million dollars to provide Black-led migrant groups with flexible, multi-year support that would help them build power and effect long-term change.  

Frontline Leaders Speak Out 

Memories were still fresh and visceral as speakers shared their experiences and stories of the state violence that Black migrants have experienced not just this month, but for generations. Among those that the call convened were:   

Movement leaders were frank about connecting what they saw during this crisis moment on Texas’ border with broader issues of Black-led racial and migrant justice going under resourced. While expertise is not lacking, many say that their budgets and infrastructure are too small to both address the immediate trauma that people experience and the long-term changes that are needed in immigration policy to prevent future crises.  

Participants in last week's emergency funder call: (l. to r.) Ninaj Raoulj (Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees), Ola Osaze (Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project), Guerline Jozef (Haitian Bridge Alliance), Aryah Somers Landsberger (GCIR), Rose Berry (Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project) and Rini Chakraborty (Four Freedoms Fund).

Participants in last week’s emergency funder call: (l. to r.) Ninaj Raoulj (Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees), Ola Osaze (Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project), Guerline Jozef (Haitian Bridge Alliance), Aryah Somers Landsberger (GCIR), Rose Berry (Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project) and Rini Chakraborty (Four Freedoms Fund).

I have to be at different ports of entry every week because of lack of capacity. And we are grateful that now we are able to start looking into hiring people, but that too is violence upon the Black community, upon smaller organizations who do not have departments to answer quickly enough to emails and calls,” said Guerline Jozef, co-founder and executive director of Haitian Bridge Alliance. “That is violence that we continue to perpetuate in all of this… When we are needed, we are called. And after we are being used, discarded.” 

As NCRP has noted before, foundations typically give just 1-2% to explicitly benefit immigrants and refugees in a country that is 14% foreign-born. In some years, foundations gave more to leisure sports than to the pro-immigrant, pro-refugee movement. Black, indigenous, AAPI and LGBTQ immigrants receive even less. At the same time, community foundation funding explicitly designated for Black communities also trails local demographic numbers. And while there has been a lot of news around racial equity and racial justice efforts, distributed investments substantially trail pledged amounts. Taken together, it often means that Black organizations, especially those led and dedicated to serving Black indigenous, women, girls, trans people and gender expansive people passing through our borders receive an even smaller slice of an already tiny pie, despite an abundance of foundation wealth. 

Organizers also noted US foundations’ unique responsibility, given that US policy has played a direct role in exacerbating the root causes of forced migration, from climate change and war to colonialism and debt. Current refugee and asylum policies also leave Black and Black LGBTQ+ migrants uniquely vulnerable to  homophobia, transphobia and gendered violence long after leaving  home countries. 

It doesn’t have to be this  way. Funders with a variety of mandates and focus areas can find a connection to their work in the intersections of Black identity.  For example, for funders working in policing and criminal justice work, it should be no surprise that Black immigrants are more likely to live in overpoliced neighborhoods. This extra contact with police has resulted in 20% of the Black migrant population in detention, nearly four times their representative population. They are also six times more likely to be in solitary confinement in detention.  

The call also highlighted the creative ways that grantmakers can support movement leaders, sustain mental health and model sustainable leadership. Nekessa Opoti described the $50,000 self-care grant that Minneapolis-based Black Immigrant Collective received during the uprising in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. She confessed that she had written a list of organizers and given it out before she realized that she had forgotten to put herself on the list.

Supporting Black-led migrant groups beyond the current crisis 

Participants vowed to continue to highlight the issue in actions through the end of the year and into next year’s important mid-term elections. The Until We’re Free table, a coalition of racial and immigrant justice organizations convened by BAJI, will be hosting actions online and in cities like DC, Miami, New York, Las Vegas, Oakland and Nashville through October and during a National Week of Action in Support of Black Migrants. 

They urged the public to learn more about the policies that overwhelmingly impact Black migrants at the southern border and to sign their open letter to the Biden Administration that lists specific policy demands and expectations on protecting Black immigrants. They also encouraged more funders to deepen their commitments to racial equity and racial justice beyond the summer protests of 2020 by moving millions in flexible, multi-year support grants to Black migrant communities, especially Black LGBTQ and specifically trans people.  

With their deep connection and work on these issues, it’s clear that Black migrant justice leaders need philanthropy to step up and expand their support so that the physical, economic, and political needs of all migrant leaders are firmly included in all advocacy spaces. 

For more information about the $10 million challenge and how to get involved, please reach out to Rini Chakraborty at rchakraborty@neophilanthropy.org. 

Jennifer Amuzie is NCRP’s Strategic Communications Manager.