Altruism Today

Predatory Landlords Seek to Push Tenants Out Despite Eviction Moratoria

June 16th, 2020  |  Source: NPQ

Source: NBC News
As we’ve noted in NPQ, while the pandemic-induced economic shutdown has affected everyone, it has hit families with low-incomes and of color the hardest. According to the Federal Reserve, nearly 40 percent of those earning $40,000 or less lost their jobs in March. Some have recovered their jobs as states have reopened, but many have not.
By contrast, the unemployment rate for managers in May was 5.1 percent.
And many of these low-income, now unemployed, workers are renters. One real estate firm estimated that 28 million renters, or 22.5 percent of all US households, are at risk of losing their homes either to eviction or landlord foreclosure.
As NPQ has noted, eviction moratoria provide limited protection. Rent bills still accumulate, so some renters may owe as much as three or four months’ rent when their moratorium ends. The HEROES bill, passed by the House in May, has languished in the Senate, but could provide up to $100 billion in rent assistance.
But as Safia Samee Ali of NBC News reports, legal protections only matter if landlords follow the law. Many do, but others are using extra-legal means to push tenants out.
For instance, Ali details:
Sada Jones, 23, a hotel cook, has been unable to make rent payments on her New Orleans-area apartment since being furloughed on March 19 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, she alleges, her landlord began using aggressive tactics to force her out, including cutting off her utilities and sending maintenance workers to demand she leave.
“I’m scared because I don’t want to move with the situation that’s going on with COVID, but I also don’t want to live in these conditions,” she said. “I’m constantly anxious and paranoid about what they’ll do next. I don’t feel safe.”
Attorney Amanda Golob manages the housing law programs at the nonprofit Southeast Louisiana Legal Services in New Orleans. She tells Ali that the nonprofit’s staff is dealing with cases of landlords changing locks, cutting utilities, refusing to make essential repairs, and making repeat harassing phone calls and text messages. “They are creating an environment that forces the tenant to leave on their own.”
Such lawless actions go under the moniker of “self-help evictions,” and they are rising.
“We have seen, both prior to pandemic and during the pandemic, some landlords will resort to intimidation or other tactics to push their tenants out, says Alieza Durana, a writer at Eviction Lab at Princeton University.
As for Jones in New Orleans, she tells Ali that her landlord’s hostile tactics began a few weeks after she missed her April payment. First, her landlord sent maintenance workers into her apartment to demand she leave immediately. Then, the landlord cut off various utilities, disconnecting the air conditioning. The landlord also shut off power to her kitchen, so she no longer has a working stove.
Jones says, “I had to make a decision. Either I pay the rent, or I buy food, so I chose what I immediately needed at the time, which was food.”
Jones lives in a building financed by federal loans, and therefore evictions are prohibited in her building under the CARES Act until July 25th.
Lisa Rice, president of the National Fair Housing Alliance, tells Ali that the situation Jones faces is not unique. Rice says her nonprofit has not yet been able to do a statistical analysis of “self-help evictions” during the pandemic but says cases are likely concentrated among “those vulnerable populations who are disproportionately subject to these forms of abusive evictions when there isn’t a pandemic.”
In response, housing advocates are seeking to extend eviction moratoria, expand relief to renters (such as that contained in the HEROES bill), and raise the bar to filing evictions. Some jurisdictions, such as Minnesota and Washington, DC, “have already started to aggressively prosecute cases of predatory landlord behavior,” reports Ali.
Using such tactics to deprive tenants of their housing is disturbing at any time, but especially during a pandemic, notes Shamus Roller, executive director of the National Housing Law Project. “The last thing we want right now is people going around looking for an apartment to rent. That involves travel, interacting with strangers, enclosed spaces, and all of the other activities associated with moving,” Roller tells Ali. “And those are the challenges for someone that can find and afford a new place. For other people that get evicted, it means doubling up with another family or homelessness, which come with huge health ramifications.”—Steve Dubb

PayPal commits $530 million to address economic inequality

June 15th, 2020  |  Source: Philanthropy News Didest

PayPal Holdings has announced a $530 million commitment in support of African American- and minority-owned businesses.

As part of a longer-term commitment to address economic inequality in the United States, the company will create a $500 million economic opportunity fund aimed at supporting and strengthening African-American and underrepresented minority businesses. Through the initiative, the company will work closely with community banks and credit unions serving underrepresented minority communities, and will invest directly in Black and minority-led startups and minority-focused investment funds.

The investments also include $10 million for the PayPal Empowerment Grants for Black Businesses Program, a joint initiative with the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) through which grants of up to $10,000 will be awarded to Black-owned businesses that have been impacted by the coronavirus and/or civil unrest. A separate $5 million grant and employee matching gift fund will support PayPal community partners working to strengthen Black businesses by providing them with microloans, technical assistance, mentoring, and access to digital solutions that can help accelerate their recovery. Initial recipients of grants from the fund include AEO, Baltimore Business Lending, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives Micro Finance Group, Expanding Black Business Credit Initiative, Kiva, MORTAR, Nebraska Enterprise Fund, Opportunity Fund, Rising Tide Capital, Start Small Think Big, Walker's Legacy Foundation, and Women's Opportunity Resource Center.
In addition, the company will spend $15 million to strengthen its internal diversity and inclusion programs, foster greater awareness among employees of systemic injustice, and support the recruitment, hiring, and career advancement of African-American and minority employees.
"For far too long, Black people in America have faced deep-seated injustice and systemic economic inequality," said PayPal president and CEO Dan Schulman. "Black lives matter and we need to drive transformative change. We must take decisive action to close the racial wealth gap that sustains this profound inequity."

Time to Untether Philanthropy to Back Black-Led and Defined Work

June 11th, 2020  |  Source: NPQ

By Ruth McCambridge Editor

A few days ago, NPQ ran an article by Will Cordery entitled “Dear Philanthropy: These are the Fires of Anti-Black Racism.” In it, he writes: My call to philanthropy: fund racial justice. Fund the hell out of it. Fund racial justice work that centers organizing and power-building to counter anti-Blackness.

Fund racial justice work that centers the lived experiences, leadership, and communities of Black people. Fund spaces that foster a radical imagination and the creation of new ways of being that could potentially replace centuries of systemic and structural racist practices in our society. And have the staying power to give Black activists and allies the space to develop effective organizing strategies to achieve lasting change. Understand that our specific programmatic interventions and strategies must serve a larger collective vision. Our struggle is mutual—and our liberation is mutual. Our collective liberation cannot fully be realized until Black people are free. When we take our focus off of addressing anti-Blackness, Black death continues to happen. Threats to Black life continue to happen. Amy Cooper continues to happen.

Black lives have always mattered. But, as Megan Ming Francis, the author of a paper entitled “The Price of Civil Rights: Black Lives, White Funding and Movement Capture,” noted in February of 2019, the problem is not simply a general lack of funding, but also the control white-led philanthropic organizations exert over that funding—and by extension, movements. Having studied the effects of the relationship of the NAACP to the now-long-defunct Garland Fund in the early 20th century, Francis concluded that the foundation’s influence had the effect of moving the organization’s priorities away from fighting mob violence against black people to educational equity.

A Social Enterprise-Supported Nonprofit Faces the Challenge of COVID-19

May 31st, 2020  |  Source: Boston Business Journal

May 27, 2020; Boston Business Journal
A 15-year-old nonprofit with a noble mission had, until COVID-19 entered the scene, been happily humming along. It was successfully mixing a traditional fundraising program with a profitable used-book business to support its youth services program. Suddenly, like most non-essential small businesses, it had to shut down. Boston’s More Than Words was left with almost half of its budget unfunded while the need for its work grew more intense, in that it had to adapt. Reconfiguring its service system was the more immediate challenge; deciding on a model with a good chance of being viable and robust in a still unfolding post-pandemic environment is one that looms larger, and one upon which the organization’s long-term survival depends.
Founded in 2004, More Than Words set out to make life better for at-risk youth, those who are caught up in “the foster care system, court-involved, homeless, or out of school.” To break a vicious systemic cycle that traps young people in poverty and the penal system, MTW developed a service model and embedded it in the operation of an ongoing, revenue-producing business that’s is run by the youth it serves. MTW’s bookstores provide real world opportunities to acquire the job and personal skills needed to succeed in the larger job market while getting the support needed to navigate a way through the legal and youth services bureaucracies.
And the business really can support the organization. By the end of its last fiscal year, MTW has grown to serve more than 300 youth through an enterprise that sold more than $3 million worth of used books. These revenues, which comprised 47 percent of the organization’s annual budget, had been growing year by year until COVID-19 forced them to close. Their revenue stream was broken, but the need for their services was not.
Like many similar nonprofits, the leadership of MTW quickly reconfigured their services to meet the immediate impact of Massachusetts’s stay-at-home orders. According to a recent profile in the Boston Business Journal:
When the pandemic slammed into Massachusetts in March…staff quickly drew up lists of young people, noting who had housing issues, who needed computer access, and who needed food. Staff bought food from Costco, dropped off “care kits” and provided laptops…they turned to working remotely.
Workshops continue, with some classes on cooking, nutrition and studying for a driver’s permit. The nonprofit, which has approximately 100 youth on the payroll, is still providing $100,000 a month in youth stipends, tied to meeting and workshop engagement.
As hard as that pivot may have been, a much harder challenge awaits MTW and every other nonprofit that depends on a similar hybrid business model. Will that model be viable in the uncertain future that will emerge after the weeks of crisis pass? What modifications or bridge funding will be needed to keep it viable, or even make it soar?
For organizations like MTW, these are difficult questions to answer. MTW CEO Jodi Rosenbaum, who founded the organization in 2004, believes that the mixed-revenue model gives them a leg up in these uncertain times: “I’d like to believe long haul, big picture, our hybrid model is going to be what makes us thrive and weather through this, and stand up strong, but there’s a lot of really small nonprofits that don’t have runway in the bank, and literally had immediate decisions to make about their solvency and whether they could keep their doors open.”
Despite the lack of a good road map, organizations can’t wait for the smoke to clear to begin deciding how they’ll emerge. Rosenbaum says her organization is deep into that effort. “We’re already thinking about scenarios, about a smaller storefront where people could come in, and really repurpose our storefront space for more online retail. Everything in the Boston store is right now listed online. Until we are sure we can drive the revenue in that store in retail sales, it behooves us to keep it online.”
MTW’s current business model doesn’t just depend on financial donors. They also need a continuous stream of donated books to provide inventory. Rosenbaum feels that uncertainty, too. “A lot of people’s personal wealth has been affected. A lot of corporations have been hit hard, so we just don’t know if we can drive that. So we, like other nonprofits, are reducing what we believe is potential for next year, to be conservative.”
Even as the current service system is shored up by reducing costs and keeping budgets balanced, it becomes essential to start building the future from the bottom up. More Than Words will need to be as creative and innovative today as they were when they began in 2004. Converting to more of an online operation isn’t just a matter of a new means to bring sales and revenue; MTW will need to be ensure the new business model gives the youth it serves opportunities to grow and learn.
The strength of a hybrid like MTW is in their merger of revenue and service models. It has allowed them to serve and earn with a single effort. To survive, they’ll keep that duality as a key element. We look forward to learning with them over the coming months.

Nonprofits Join Together to Call for Stronger Gun Control

August 21st, 2019  |  Source: NPQ

In 2017, NPQ’s Steve Dubb asked, “Can Nonprofits Learn from the Vegas Massacre and Make a Difference?” He discussed several different areas in which nonprofits help their communities during and in the aftermath of a mass shooting. He also said something that is still unfortunately relevant now: “Today, the ability of such horrors to shock is much diminished, although the deaths and injuries that continue to accumulate are no less tragic for their familiarity.” Since the Las Vegas shooting, the United States has continued to mourn the loss of its citizens to gun violence. Gun Violence Archive keeps a running database for gun violence, and in 2019 alone, there have been 262 mass shootings—too many to list in one article. At the start of this month, Steve Dubb covered another shooting, this one at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. There, a nonprofit was, as Dubb noted, “literally on the front lines.” In the two years between the two, mass shootings have been on the rise. And only two weeks later, Dubb wrote about a community’s resilience following yet another mass shooting—one at a Walmart that targeted a Latinx community in El Paso. Guns Down America—itself formed in 2016 in response to a mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, has, according to USA Today, called on Color of Change, MoveOn, Orange Ribbons for Gun Safety, and the American Federation of Teachers to join them in a weekend action to pressure Walmart to cease its gun sales and demand legislative action. (They want Walmart to publicly support gun buyback programs and a ban on military style weapons.) Walmart is standing behind its gun sales stance, but Guns Down America and its coalition hopes their campaign will go viral and they can use their #WalmartMustAct challenge to push the megacorporation to budge.

A Massive Big Donor “Giving Circle” Breaks the Mold

October 24th, 2017  |  Source: NPQ

Source; New York Times

In philanthropy, we often celebrate the lone individual philanthropist, be that person Andrew Carnegie, John Rockefeller, Henry Ford, or modern-day equivalents like Mark Zuckerberg. Love them or hate them, the vision of the great philanthropist with a singular vision looms large.

But there is another model of giving that is more group-oriented—one in which individual philanthropists subordinate their egos for common benefit. Such is the model profiled by Paul Sullivan in the New York Timeswho writes about some of the inner workings of Blue Meridian Partners, a billion-dollar-plus fund created by the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation.

Blue Meridian was capitalized by a dozen very large donors who each contributed between $50 and $250 million. The fund itself provides very large grants (up to $200 million) to nonprofit organizations that work on issues affecting poor children.

With the ante level set at a cool $50 million, this is clearly not your neighborhood lending circle, but the principles of mutual support and consensus-building still obtain.

One member of Blue Meridian Partners is hedge fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller, who has an estimated net worth of $4.7 billion. Druckenmiller, who has been a longtime donor to the Harlem Children’s Zone, a group well known for its work with poor children and families in New York, decided that he would be more effective in his giving—and his goal of disrupting patterns of generational poverty—if he joined with others. Says Druckenmiler “I’m not rich enough to do it alone. If I was worth $50 billion or $60 billion, I’d go this alone, but I’m not.”

Steven Ballmer, the former chief executive of Microsoft, and his wife Connie have an even larger net worth of $34 billion and do run their own foundation. But they also decided to ante up $50 million for Meridian as a way “to team up with others to have a greater impact.”

Part of the attraction of joining with others isn’t just the pooling of funds, but the access to greater expertise. “People don’t want to hear this from me,” Connie Ballmer says, “but it’s really hard to give money away [to organizations seeking to reduce childhood poverty]. It’s not as easy as picking a university or hospital to give to. You have to do a lot of research.”

Nancy Roob is chief executive of Blue Meridian Partners and the president of the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation which took the lead on the effort. She explains the philosophy behind the fund:

We start with the belief that it’s actually possible to solve significant social problems confronting the children and youth living in poverty today. What brings people together and what makes it work are the opportunities to invest in leaders and strategies. It’s the opportunity to together solve problems that none of us would be able to do on our own.

For Druckenmiller, what makes this approach work is the role the Meridian team plays in vetting organizations:

They’re the stock pickers. They bring the ideas and the organizations. We all talk together about the potential and evaluate them. So far there’s been a remarkable consensus.

Connie Ballmer notes that she greatly values this process of sharing opinions:

If you’re going to make bets, it’s nice to be surrounded by those individuals at the table. They present the organizations that are in the pipeline. They present the upsides, downsides and the risks.

Of course, like any group process, the upside of accessing the wisdom of experts and that of fellow partners does come with the common potential downside of group conflict. It is important, notes Sullivan, to be sure the group works in a cohesive way.

“There’s a limit not to the amount of capital we can bring in, but there is a limit to what makes an effective decision-making body,” Roob observes.

But all strategies have roots. In a way, the program has taken a familiar model used by some community foundations to address critical community issues and brought that to a far higher scale.

This may be the biggest year in history for American philanthropy

October 20th, 2017

This may be the biggest year in history for American philanthropy, Kim Laughton, president of Schwab Charitable, said in a statement this week on the release the donor-advised-fund sponsor’s 2017 giving report.

Laughton pointed to three factors she said advisors should discuss with their clients about why now is an ideal time to embrace charitable giving.

One is the improving economy and strong market performance. She noted that the S&P 500 has risen by 80% in the last five years, and because of healthy investment gains, many investors now face higher tax bills.

Donors who contribute appreciated assets they have held for more than one year to charity can help offset these taxes and increase charitable giving by as much as 20%, she said.


Cheerfully Charitable at Schwab

Schwab Charitable's Kim Laughton gets to the nub of why advisors should make charitable planning and community activity a focus...

Another factor is possible tax reform legislation. Laughton said the value of charitable deductions increased in 2013 when income tax and capital gains tax rates went up for most high-income earners.

Although the itemized charitable deduction will likely be protected in some way in legislation resulting from the current tax-reform push, she said, any reduction in income or capital gains tax rates could lower the value of charitable deductions.

Finally, there is the huge level of disaster relief support needed across the U.S. In the past few months, hundreds of thousands of people have been hit by hurricanes, floods and fires, and are in desperate need of food, emergency shelter, clean water, electricity and access to critical medical care.

Laughton said that as of the beginning of October, Schwab Charitable donors had recommended upward of $12 million in grants for hurricane and earthquake relief, and this number continued to grow.

How activists have already scored victories against Trump's policies

March 7th, 2017  |  Source: The Guardian

Through marches and dogged pursuit of elected officials, people across the US have helped to block some of the administration’s most anti-progressive policies

Despite Donald Trump’s claim that his administration is running like a “fine-tuned machine”, activists have already managed to score victories against some of the most anti-progressive policies of the president and his Republican allies.

Through rallies, marches and dogged pursuit of elected officials, people across the country have helped to block some of Trump’s initiatives, and draw attention to government missteps.

Here are some of activists’ most dramatic wins so far:

Puzder withdraws from labor secretary consideration

Andrew Puzder, the chief executive of CKE Restaurants, was Trump’s first choice to run the Department of Labor, but he withdrew himself from the running in February after complaints from Democrats and labor groups.

Hundreds of activists protested at Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s restaurants – owned by CKE Restaurants – on 12 January. They sought to draw attention to Puzder’s vocal opposition to minimum wage increases and his controversial business record.

In Washington Democrats held press conferences denouncing Puzder’s record. Under his leadership CKE restaurants ran sexualized advertising campaigns, and Puzder himself wrote in 2011 that “we believe in putting hot models in our commercials because ugly ones don’t sell burgers”.

Republicans back off effort to sell 3.3m acres of public land

In early February, Congressman Jason Chaffetz withdrew a bill that would have ordered the incoming secretary of the interior to sell off 3.3m acres of national land, after hundreds of protesters and 20 outdoor industry groups criticised the law.

People gathered at statehouses in New Mexico and Montana to demonstrate against House bill 621, which would have seen land in 10 states available for sale.

#GrabYourWallet sees companies dump Trump

The campaign was launched in October 2016, in response to Donald Trump’s infamous boasts that his fame allowed him to sexually assault women; specifically, to “grab them by the pussy”.

GrabYourWallet lists dozens of companies which have ties to the president – either by selling his or his family’s products, or by endorsing him during the election campaign.

Since the campaign started a number of companies have dropped Ivanka Trump’s clothing line, including, Shopstyle and most recently Nordstrom. In addition to delivering a financial hit to Ivanka Trump, the campaign succeeded in upsetting the president, who tweeted that his daughter had been “treated so unfairly” by Nordstrom.

Temporarily blocking the immigration executive order

Trump’s 27 January executive order suspending immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries sparked protests across the country. Thousands of people gathered at airports in New York City, LA, Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Ohio, Orlando and elsewhere as travellers were detained.

At the same time groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and National Immigration Law Center filed lawsuits against the executive order.

On 3 February a federal judge ordered a temporary halt on the ban, restoring travel for refugees and people from the excluded countries, and on 9 February the ninth circuit court of appeals upheld that ruling. Trump on Monday issued a new executive order, which contained a number of revisions.

Play Video

 Crowds gather at US airports to protest Trump’s immigration ban

Overwhelming attendance at town halls

The congressional recess is traditionally a time for elected officials to hold town halls for their constituents. People took advantage of this to turn out in droves to events, questioning both Republicans and Democrats about their commitment to Obamacare, to the environment and more.

The actions were successful in two ways. Many congressmen and women decided not to host events, enabling activists to draw attention to their lack of interaction with voters. Even Republicans, including New Jersey governor Chris Christie, criticized their colleagues for not facing their constituents.

Separately, elected officials said that the attendance and tough questioning at town halls and other events was having an effect. Representative Mo Brooks, from Alabama’s fifth congressional district, was among those to note the impact.

“In my opinion, the massive obstructionist nature of the protests, particularly the disruption of town hall meetings, is having an effect on a good number of our more liberal, big government, weak-kneed, squishy-spined Republican senators and House members,” Brooks said. He predicted that the constituent opposition might even stop Republicans from repealing Obamacare.

#DeleteUber leads to people deleting Uber

More than 200,000 people reportedly deleted their Uber accounts after the company did not participate in a taxi drivers’ strike at JFK airport. The strike had been called in response to Trump’s executive order banning immigrants and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries.

As well as continuing to run cars to and from the airport, Uber tweeted that it had “turned off” surge pricing during the strike, seemingly taking advantage of the taxi drivers’ action.

Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick, had joined Trump’s economic advisory council in December 2016, but decided to step down following the furore.

Share your story

If you’re participating in the resistance movement, we want to hear from you. Show us what it looks like.

Since you’re here …

… we’ve got a small favour to ask. More people are reading the Guardian than ever, but far fewer are paying for it. Advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. And unlike some other news organisations, we haven’t put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism open to all. So you can see why we need to ask for your help. The Guardian’s independent, investigative journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce. But we do it because we believe our perspective matters – because it might well be your perspective, too.

If everyone who reads our reporting, who likes it, helps to support it, our future would be much more secure.

Abdul Sattar Edhi: Why Google honours him today

February 28th, 2017  |  Source: Al

Edhi, who founded the world's largest volunteer ambulance network, would have been 89 on Tuesday.

Abdul Sattar Edhi founded the world's  largest volunteer ambulance network in Pakistan, the Edhi Foundation.

Unlike wealthy individuals that fund charities in their names, Edhi dedicated his life to the poor from the age of 20, when he himself was penniless in Karachi.

The reach of Edhi's foundation grew internationally, and in 2005 the organisation raised $100,000 in aid relief for the victims of  Hurricane Katrina.

Edhi was born before partition in Bantva, Gujarat, India on February 28, 1928.

He died last year in Karachi of renal failure.  He was offered treatment abroad,  but insisted on being treated in a government hospital at home.

The Edhi Foundation's slogan is: "Live and help live".

Today would have been his 89th birthday.

In his honour, Google changed its logo in the United States; Iceland; Portugal; Australia; New Zealand; Japan; Estonia; the UK; Denmark; Ireland and Pakistan to a doodle, or illustration, of Edhi.

Google hailed Edhi's "super-efficient" ambulance service.

"In celebration of Abdul Sattar Edhi, let's all lend a hand to someone in need today," it said.

The technology giant's team has created more than 2,000 doodles for homepages around the world. Among those recently celebrated are  Pramoedya Ananta Toer,  Fred Korematsu and Edmonia Lewis.

"The doodle selection process aims to celebrate interesting events and anniversaries that reflect Google's personality and love for innovation," the company says.

'No religion higher than humanity'

With more than 1,800 ambulances stationed across Pakistan, the Edhi Foundation is Pakistan's  largest welfare organisation.  In 1997, the foundation entered the Guinness World Records as the "largest volunteer ambulance organisation".

Resistance to Targeting of Immigrants Becomes a Self-Organized System

February 24th, 2017  |  Source: NPQ


Amid a wave of ICE detentions across the country, reports of new draft guidelines that would significantly increase the detention and deportations of immigrants lacking legal status, and a promise from President Trump that he will release a new executive order to “comprehensively protect our country” against undocumented immigrants, refugees, and travelers, localities, schools, and other entities are progressing with their own efforts at protecting refugees to the greatest extent possible. In many cases, these initiatives require high levels of coordination between local government, law enforcement agencies, and nonprofits. Even in the major suits filed that have worked to stay the original Muslim ban, there has been a combination of plaintiffs, including governments, nonprofits (both national and local) and business interests involved.

But many efforts are more local. In Palo Alto, for instance, a three-hour study session held Wednesday of last week brought together law enforcement, legal advocates, and immigrant advocacy and support groups for a discussion of how to strengthen protections for their local residents who are immigrants. Around two-thirds of all the city’s residents are Latino or Pacific Islander, according to the nonprofit group Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto. This session looked to reexamine the strength and comprehensiveness of three resolutions that the city approved between 2007 and 2012.

The first, in 2007, directs all city departments, including police, to refrain from acting as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “agents” in any program or operation targeting individuals solely based on their immigration status. It also calls for ICE to stop displaying the word “police” on their uniforms, which has confused residents and caused fear of actual local police officers.

The 2010 and 2012 resolutions called upon the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors to direct its departments against cooperating with the Secure Communities Program and to refrain from using county funds to help federal immigration officials. The 2012 resolution also asked the county probation department to refrain from reporting juveniles to ICE or honoring juvenile ICE detainer requests.

The agencies reiterated their commitments to those resolutions and acknowledged the limitations of the protections provided. The integration of the services provided by local nonprofits was reviewed and an additional legal fund was discussed. Council members also wanted to know how the executive order on withholding federal funding from sanctuary cities might affect East Palo Alto, which has never formally declared itself a sanctuary city but clearly has many aspects of one.

Councilman Carlos Romero emphasized that even if federal funding were threatened, he would not back away from doing the right thing. Still, he said, “we [should] go into it with our eyes open.”

At least two other sanctuary jurisdictions, San Francisco and Santa Clara, have sued the federal government this month, claiming that the order violates the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution because it coerces state and local governments into assisting with federal immigration enforcement.

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández writes for NACLA that legal representation is critically important to establishing extra protections in sanctuary jurisdictions, taking real protections beyond rhetoric:

Before the number of people caught up in the immigration detention and deportation pipeline grows, cities could immediately agree to create an immigrant legal defense fund. Currently there is no federal right to government-funded attorneys in immigration proceedings. This is an enormous moral failing embedded into existing immigration law.

But cities can correct this moral shortcoming without opening themselves up to any legal trouble. Cities and states already employ attorneys to represent their residents. In the criminal context, government-funded legal counsel is the norm. It’s time for elected officials to expand access to counsel to immigration cases. Cities could partner with state public defenders’ offices or use their own municipal public defender corps, where those exist, to add lawyers who are ready to go into immigration courts alongside city residents.

He cites the examples of Austin, Texas; Washington, D.C.; and New York City, where special funds have been developed to ensure counsel for those threatened with detention and deportation. These, he says, do not need to be composed only of public money but could perhaps include donor dollars as well.

Behind all of the legal efforts, however, there are other practical supports in place or being developed by local residents anxious not just resist but to welcome newcomers in ways that are practical and involve building new institutions together. In Garden City, Kansas, volunteers have established a new clinic to provide health care to local refugees. The clinic operates out of an apartment in an area where many refugees live.

“Sometimes there are barriers that prevent a refugee individual from really getting the healthcare that they need,” said John Birky, the CEO of the nonprofit clinic, New Hope Together.

The physicians staffing the effort are volunteers who understand that health delivery in this circumstance requires more than medical care. “A lot of people don’t know how insurance works,” said Gareth Bridge, one of the clinic’s physicians. “They don’t know why we do preventative medicine. These are foreign concepts in many countries.”

Ifrah Ahmed, who will be acting as a volunteer language mentor at New Hope Together, says the clinic reflects a strengthened relationship between refugees and the rest of Garden City, which developed in the wake of a bombing plot targeting refugees there last year. “Instead of taking us apart and making people flee from Garden City,” she said, “it made us more united. It made us stronger, and it made us more family now.”

All this is taking place even as protests continue across the country and Trump’s justifications for getting tough on immigration and refugees wear ever thinner. Over the weekend, in an impassioned talk about the link between crime and refugees, he referred to a purported attack he said had happened in Sweden on Friday. Later, the president clarified his statement, which was he said was based on an interview with a filmmaker he had seen on Fox News. No attack, of course, had occurred. Carl Bildt, Sweden’s former prime minister, tweeted “Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound.”

This is, of course, not the first time that key Trump staff have alluded to terrorist attacks that did not occur. Kellyanne Conway’s “Bowling Green Massacre” references and Sean Spicer’s to Atlanta when he presumably meant Orlando suggest a larger cultural issue in the administration—a vagueness and disregard for the truth in the fright mongering that would indeed be funny if it weren’t so frightening itself. Finally, the link the president has made between violent crime rates and immigration is both backward and entirely unsupported. These weaknesses must be used to highlight the faulty as much as anything else of course, but they cannot be counted upon necessarily

In the face of this, the multiple nodes of activism—service and resettlement-oriented, sanctuary organizing, legal defense and litigation, and protest—are all critical. At the very least, it’s apparent that coordination is moving nicely into position where it is needed, responses are being shared across localities and fields and types of organizations, and the whole has acted with the intelligence and skill inherent in the parts. No doubt these alliances will at times be difficult, but the stakes are very high.

About Value News Network

Value is the only commonality in an increasingly complex, challenging and interdependent world.
Laurance Allen: Editor + Publisher

Connect with Us