Cathy Cha, Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund

TITLE: Senior Program Officer, Immigration Rights and Integration Program

FUNDING AREAS: Immigration rights and reform, civic participation

CONTACT:, (415) 856-1400

IP TAKE: Cha believes that improving the future of immigrants in California will improve the future of the entire state. Pitch a proposal that boosts the civic participation of California immigrants or a game-changing state policy reform for the best chance at a grant.

PROFILE: The Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund recognizes that undocumented immigrants cannot integrate and contribute fully to their communities unless the country's immigration system is modernized. The fund therefore supports comprehensive immigration reform that offers a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrant and believes this benefits both newcomers and long-term residents by creating stronger and more vibrant communities. With immigrants making up a quarter of California's population, federal immigration reform is a high priority issue for Haas, Jr. The fund also works to boost civic participation among California immigrants and reform state and local immigration policies to support immigrant integration. 

Eight million immigrants living in the United States qualify for citizenship, but only 8 percent of them become citizens each year. The process is complicated, the application fees are high, and the incentive for cheap labor is to great. Cathy Cha, daughter of Korean immigrants, is leading the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund in a national collaboration to reduce those barriers and help immigrants find success in America. (Read Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund: Bay Area Grants). Cha, along with Carnegie and Knight, started the New Americans Campaign. 

Before joining the Haas, Jr. team, Cha was a program officer at the Hyams Foundation in Boston. There, she managed in the $2 million community economic development grantmaking portfolio. She also previously worked as a project manager at the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation in San Francisco, ICF Consulting in Oakland, and the United Way in Seattle. She has nearly two decades of experience in community rights and economic development work, and she keeps her focus on low-income immigrant communities. Cha is on the steering committee of the Four Freedoms Fund, the funder collaborative on immigration reform that includes the nation's most prominent immigration funders. Her educational background includes a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Washington and a master's in city and regional planning from the University of California at Berkeley.

At Haas, Jr., Cha manages the fund's immigration program, which promotes the rights and opportunities for immigrants to become full-included and engaged citizens. Cha leads a funder collaborative on civic participation called the California Civic Participation Funders (CCPF). CCPF is made up of nine foundations working jointly to increase voting and power in four counties that have surging immigrant populations (San Diego, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside). These funders are joining forces to amp up cutting edge civic participation and scale in immigrant and African American communities.

When the U.S. Government was collecting information for the 2010 Census, Haas co-led a statewide campaign and enlisted over a dozen other private foundations to help nonprofits locate and include California's poor, wary, and hard-to-reach minority residents. Cha recognized that is a neighborhood isn't counted properly, it won't get the money it needs for education, food stamps, foster care, housing vouchers, and economic development grants. “We are funding a lot of networks of trusted messengers who can get the word out,” Cha said

Cha also serves on the board of Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR) and chairs its Program Committee. In this role, she collaborates with other foundation officers to provide welcoming communities for California's 10 million immigrants. “This is a place where all of us can come together, find new partners and create more impact for immigrants across the state,” Cha said.

The Haas Jr. Fund's immigration grantmaking program was launched in 2004 and has made grants totaling over $38 million since that time. Private foundations, like the Haas Jr. Fund, are pushing for big changes to level the playing fiedl for immigrant communities. The New Americans Campaign and Four Freedoms Fund, for example, are backed by over $35 million in foundation funds, and leaders like Cha aren't giving up without a fight.

These are a few of the causes that Cha supports the most:

Cha believes that improving the future of immigrants in California will improve the future of the entire state for everyone. She prefers collaboration over a solo approach, and is always up for new partnerships with foundations and nonprofits. Pitch a proposal that boosts immigrant civic participation or strengthens California's immigration movement for the best chance at a grant.

According to Cha, “The only way to create an immigration system that lives up to the American values of fairness and equality of opportunity is to change the public debate on these issues.” Money talks, and the Haas Fund has been contributing a lot of it to immigration causes these days. To learn more about the Haas Fund's immigration program, check out the Building a Movement for Change section of the foundation website.