Astraea Finds Another Niche: LGBT Immigrants

The New York-based Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, which was founded in 1977 and has awarded a greater number of LGBT-related grants than any other foundation in the United States, is advancing its efforts to defend the rights of LGBT immigrants.

This is a community that has not, over the years, received much attention in mainstream LGBT philanthropy. Of course, LGBT immigrants have benefited from many of the gains that have been made by he LGBT community as a whole, but there has not been much of a funding infrastructure in place for activism and advocacy that specifically defends their rights and addresses their often unique concerns.

Astraea, a foundation that has always been ahead of its time in its approach, is stepping in to help fill that void. In a wave of grantmaking recently announced by the foundation, totaling 66 grants, Astraea's enhanced commitment to LGBT immigrants is evident. Six organizations (a blend of national, state, and local groups) working to "advance immigrants rights activism" were awarded a total of $30,000:

These grantees are two national, one statewide, and three locally-focused organizations that are engaging a key racial and economic justice movement today. Their work increases the visibility of LGBTQI people in this movement, and pushes the dialogue on immigrant rights past mainstream perspectives to build solidarity within national racial and economic justice movements.

Specifically, within the LGBT immigrant communities, the organizations that received these funds work with "the most vulnerable segments." This is consistent with Astraea's philosophy over the past 35 years, which has been to stay at the grassroots level and defend the rights of the most marginalized people under the LGBT umbrella. The foundation is more open to small-time grantseekers than perhaps any of its peers.

Some of Astraea's funding on behalf of LGBT immigrants has started to pay dividends. Astraea recently highlighted a few "hard-fought gains" that have been won in partnership with grantees.

In California, after years of "policy advocacy, coalition-building, base-building, and direct action" by Astraea's grantees, the City of San Francisco established one of the nation's strongest laws protecting immigrants against the threat of deportation. Additionally, at the state level, Governor Jerry Brown signing legislation that prohibits local governments from deporting immigrants after minor offenses when they would otherwise be released.

In New York City, the city council overrode Mayor Bloomberg's veto to pass legislation reining in the highly controversial stop-and-frisk policy, which often targeted immigrants and people of color. This, too, has been a fight that has dragged on for a long time, and involved grantee partners, "past and present," of Astraea.

As both LGBT equality and immigrant rights have become extremely high-profile policy issues at the local, state, and national levels, it's only natural that the intersection between these two groups would be increasingly explored by funders and advocacy groups. Astraea certainly looks to be interested in this nexus, and organizations working on these issues could have a reliable ally going forward.