City of LA Turning to Philanthropy to Help Undocumented Immigrants Stay

Back in November, we wrote about how the California Endowment was taking the lead in galvanizing fundersincluding the James Irvine and Marguerite Casey foundationsto help the multitudes of Central American children facing deportation and needing legal representation. The grants we reported on then totaled just over $1 million. 

Now a bigger effort is afoot, with a wider focus. City leaders in Los Angeles have paired with the California Community Foundation in a $10 million program to help undocumented immigrants apply for President Obama’s deferred action programs which will help them avoid deportation.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said that it was important for the half million undocumented immigrants in the Los Angeles area to be able to take advantage of Obama’s initiative. Last November, the president's initiative offered children brought illegally to the U.S. temporary work permits and deportation deferrals. The program is known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The first week in February, he met in the White House with half a dozen young people who will benefit from the plan. His latest action aims to aid parents of children who are U.S. citizens so that families aren’t torn apart by deportation. In recent days, Orange Is The New Black star Diane Guerrero has become the face of this issue. At the age of 14, Guerrero came home from school to find that her entire family had been deported to Colombia, leaving her, a New Jersey-born U.S. citizen, alone and uncared for.

The applications are expected to be very complex, asking questions about arrests, time spent in deportation and the like. Nonprofits like the Central American Resource Center are hiring attorneys to meet the expected crush, but need funds. The Weingart Foundation and the California Endowment have already contributed $5 million for the program.

After passing the senate in June of 2013, comprehensive immigration reform never even came up for a vote in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. The president has been relying on executive authority to try to reform the system ever since, actions that have been roundly criticized by Republicans in congress. "President Obama has just announced the biggest constitutional power grabs ever by a president," according to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia) "He has declared unilaterally, that by his own estimation, almost five million unlawful immigrants will be free from the legal consequences of their lawless actions."

But Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti, a Democrat, remains committed to the effort, trying to get at least 100,000 undocumented Angelenos to apply, "Our residents, economies and municipal budgets directly suffer the consequences when federal immigration reform is stalled," Garcetti said. "Moving forward with these reforms is a human and economic imperative, and we're united to make sure this important policy moves forward.

Illegals can apply for the expanded DACA program February 18. Applications for parents of U.S. Citizens are expected to be available this spring.

The California Commuity Foundation has long been involved in immigration issues, which makes sense in a city so heavily shaped by immigrants. (The foundation says that nearly two-thirds of youth up to age 18 are children of immigrants.) CCF views this issue through the frame of immigrant "integration," and has been working to help fill the void left by the lack of national consensus and leadership on this issue. The foundation says it gives away around $1 million in this area, with money flowing to around a dozen different grantees. It's not clear, exactly, how much money CCF will be kicking into the new effort to take advantage of the Obama administration's action. 

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