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The truth about the team behind
the Tory leader
Society p. 17
4 July 2007
Behind the Death of Dr. Fredric
Cosmetic Dermatologist to the Stars
APRIL 10, 2015
By JACOB BERNSTEIN
The New York Times
Behind the Death of Dr. Fredric Brandt,
Cosmetic Dermatologist to
APRIL 10, 2015,
The Big Money
Behind the Push
for an Immigration Overhaul
NOV. 14, 2014
The New York Times
By JULIA PRESTON
When President Obama announces major changes to the nation’s
immigration enforcement system as early as next week, his decision will partly
be a result of a yearslong campaign of pressure by immigrant rights groups,
which have grown from a cluster of lobbying organizations into a national force.
A vital part of that expansion has involved money: major donations from some of
the nation’s wealthiest liberal foundations, including the Ford Foundation, the
Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Open Society Foundations of the financier
George Soros, and the Atlantic Philanthropies. Over the past decade those donors
have invested more than $300 million in immigrant organizations, including many
fighting for a pathway to citizenship for immigrants here illegally.
The philanthropies helped the groups rebound after setbacks and financed the
infrastructure of a network in constant motion, with marches, rallies, vigils,
fasts, bus tours and voter drives. The donors maintained their support as the
immigration issue became fiercely partisan on Capitol Hill and the activists
intensified their protests, engaging in civil disobedience and brash
confrontations with lawmakers and the police.
The donors’ strategy arose in 2007, as immigrant groups nursed wounds from a
rout after a bill pushed by President George W. Bush failed in Congress.
“For all our vaunted work, we were basically a fractious coalition that just got
our butts kicked,” said Frank Sharry, a longtime advocate who is now executive
director of America’s Voice, a core organization in the coalition.
Atlantic and several other philanthropies funded a series of soul-searching
retreats. Days and nights of arguments produced a plan that came to be known as
the four pillars. The groups agreed to redouble their local community
organizing; to expand their work into mobilizing voters; to create policy
research to underpin their pro-immigrant message; and to “turbocharge” their
communications with the news media, as Mr. Sharry put it, a task that fell to
“The good news was that the funders really got the idea of building up a
movement that could press for change at all levels,” Mr. Sharry said. “We were
really talking about a movement that could win the grand prize: legislation that
puts 11 million people on a path to citizenship.”
The philanthropies focused on a dozen regional immigrant rights organizations
that make up the backbone of the movement. They also supported Latino service
organizations like NCLR, also known as the National Council of La Raza, and
legal groups like the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or
Maldef, and the National Immigration Law Center.
“The credit for our movement goes to immigrant leaders who had the courage to
step out of the shadows,” said Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center
for Community Change, another core organization. “But the growth and speed of
the movement was significantly aided by a small number of visionary
The Ford Foundation already had a decades-long track record of funding nonprofit
organizations aiding immigrants. In 2003 Ford and Carnegie joined with several
other donors to create an unusual collaborative fund to augment support for
local groups. Since then, Carnegie has given about $100 million for immigration
initiatives, all in conventional charitable donations, including millions to
help legal immigrants become American citizens.
The Open Society Foundations of Mr. Soros, an immigrant born in Hungary, have
invested about $76 million in the past decade under the rubric of immigrant
rights, according to Archana Sahgal, a program officer.
The Atlantic Philanthropies were founded by Charles Feeney, an Irish-American
billionaire who built his fortune with a chain of duty-free shops. Atlantic has
given nearly $69 million in 72 immigration grants in the last decade. About half
of those grants were made in donations that allow lobbying.
Most of the philanthropies’ funds have been tax-exempt charitable donations that
cannot be used primarily to influence legislation. In 2013, when the Senate
passed a comprehensive immigration bill and the House was weighing its options,
several foundations also made multimillion-dollar “social welfare” grants that
can be used for lobbying.
“Our grantees are generally working in the direction of our long-term goal of
protecting the rights and dignity of immigrants and our belief that immigrants
should have a voice,” said Mayra Peters-Quintero, a senior program officer at
the Ford Foundation, which has donated about $80 million to immigrant groups
over the past 10 years, all in charitable funds.
“The compass that drives our work is not the political cycle of the moment,” she
After setting their course in 2008, the advocacy groups expanded rapidly,
amplifying their street actions with news conferences, Twitter feeds and texting
A rally on the National Mall in March 2010 drew tens of thousands of protesters
from around the country. But internecine bickering weakened the push for the
Dream Act, a bill with a path to citizenship for immigrants who came when they
were children. It failed in the Senate in late 2010.
One organization, the National Immigration Forum, branched out beyond the main
donors and shifted its focus to recruiting conservatives, including evangelical
Christians and leaders from business and law enforcement.
Young immigrants who call themselves Dreamers agitated for faster change. With
little more than pocket money, students staged protests in 2012 that prodded Mr.
Obama to take his first major executive action on immigration, a program that
has given reprieves from deportation to more than 580,000 Dreamers.
“We did it with nothing, and we won,” said Cristina Jiménez, managing director
of United We Dream, one group that led that crusade. “It was a powerful
During the debate in Congress last year, the policy advocacy wing of Open
Society gave $6.2 million to several groups in donations allowing lobbying.
“We have enormous faith in the groups with which we have had longstanding
relationships, and we wanted to give them resources to pursue the best possible
legislative fix for the problems in our immigration system,” said Caroline
Chambers, deputy director of the Open Society Policy Center.
The advocates backed the bipartisan bill that passed the Senate last year. But
the Republican majority in the House rejected it. In August, the House approved
a bill to cancel the Dreamer reprieve program, an early warning to Mr. Obama
that Republicans were ready to challenge any new unilateral action.
Foundation leaders said they have not had misgivings, even as Republican
resistance to their beneficiaries’ agenda has intensified. “Name me something in
the American political debate that isn’t partisan right now,” said Stephen
McConnell, director of United States programs for the Atlantic Philanthropies.
“It’s just the nature of the beast.”
Some opponents accuse the foundations of blatant partisanship.
“The whole apparatus has become the handmaiden of the Democratic Party,” said
Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, or FAIR,
which opposes legalization for unauthorized immigrants. “These foundations fund
activist organizations designed to create ethnic identity enclaves and
politically control them for partisan purposes.”
Mr. Stein’s group is funded by followers’ donations and by some large
contributions from conservative donors.
Foundation leaders said they were vigilant to ensure their donations did not
violate tax laws prohibiting them from funding partisan campaigns.
“We want to protect the interests of immigrants,” said Mr. McConnell of
Atlantic. Echoing other foundation officers, he said, “Atlantic does not in any
way support candidates or get involved in partisan politics.”
This year, as the prospects for legislation faded, foundation funding waned by
at least 50 percent, activists said, leaving them scrounging. Atlantic, a
mainstay, is winding down its operation, following Mr. Feeney’s instructions to
give away his assets during his lifetime. Atlantic will make its last donations
Immigrant and Latino groups carried on limited voter mobilization efforts for
the midterm elections. They no longer have funds for showy rallies. They are
frustrated that legislation with a path to citizenship seems out of reach.
But now that the White House has confirmed that Mr. Obama plans measures that
could shield as many as five million immigrants from deportation, the advocates
are mobilized and pushing him to act as broadly as his powers allow.
Last week, two days after the president held a news conference in the wake of
the midterm elections, vowing to take executive action on immigration, Gustavo
Torres, the executive director of CASA de Maryland and a coalition leader, was
protesting once again in front of the White House.
“We expect the president to be big and bold,” he said. “This is his opportunity
to make sure we are going to remember him as the president who made a difference
for Latino and immigrant communities.”
Correction: November 14, 2014
An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that the National
Immigration Forum used funds from the Open Society Foundations to reach out to
conservatives. The money for that effort came from other sources.
A version of this article appears in print on November 15, 2014, on page A1 of
the New York edition with the headline: Cash Amplifies Call to Reshape
The Big Money Behind the Push for an
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