Civic Leadership in Action

On December 1, 2016 soon after the election The San Francisco Foundation gathered a cross section of Bay Area and California leaders from immigrant legal services, advocacy and organizing group leaders to discuss the new political landscape and to listen to the emerging issues and concerns as a result of the acrimonious campaign rhetoric. With a thirty plus year history of supporting immigrant rights and integration, CEO Fred Blackwell and Vice President of Programs Judith Bell wanted to hear first-hand the immediate needs and long-term response that the foundation and its family of donors should consider.

The message our staff heard was clear. Fear and anxiety among immigrant families and Muslim residents had spiked significantly in the weeks since the election causing individuals to seek legal assistance and support in unprecedented numbers. Hearing from community leaders about the looming possibility of mass deportations, family separation, and racial and religious profiling, we acted quickly. In collaboration with our generous donors, we mobilized significant resources to legal service and community groups across the five-county Bay Area. $3 million in grant funding was deployed to trusted community partners to support numerous legal service and community organizations engaged in providing immigration Know Your Rights Workshops, legal screening, community education, and deportation defense. As part of this effort, the Foundation joined forces with the Mayor Libby Schaaf of Oakland and the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to provide foundation support as a match to city and county dollars; the result is the creation of the new Alameda County Immigrant Legal and Education Partnership to support impacted immigrants and their families.

Earlier this month, our Program Officer Tessa Rouverol Callejo also worked with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and his staff to gather 70 leaders from the business, legal and philanthropic community to recognize these sectors’ leadership in supporting the immigrant and refugee community, particularly in the wake of the President’s recent Executive Orders on immigration. The Mayor expressed his gratitude to the business, foundation and legal community for stepping forward at this time, reiterated the City’s support for immigrants and its Sanctuary City status, and called on us to coordinate efforts and to support legal services and community education at this critical time. The meeting was called to further cross sector collaboration to ensure that the San Francisco Bay Area remains inclusive and equitable.

We at The San Francisco Foundation recognize that there is an essential ongoing role for us to play. Our leadership and investments can strategically connect concerned and generous individual and institutional donors with the organizations on the front lines – those that directly serve, support, and defend immigrants in the face of deportations that threaten to separate thousands of long-time Bay Area residents. We urge you to join us in this important work.

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