By TFN Staff  

Update: Read the statement to our members from TFN’s Interim President & CEO Maureen Lawless: “Silence is not an Option”

Condemnation of the federal government’s forcible separation of children from their parents at the southern border has prompted outrage from all quarters in recent days, with civic, political and religious leaders decrying the zero-tolerance policy as cruel and inhumane.

Leaders in philanthropy have also voiced their disgust and dismay with a situation that has resulted in more than 2,300 children, some as young as infants, being held in makeshift detention facilities and other shelters. Despite an executive order signed Wednesday that ostensibly would end family separations at the border, federal agencies offered competing and contradictory explanations of what will happen with immigrant families detained by immigration officials, and leaving it unclear when — or if — parents would be reunited with their children.

Join Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR) at 1 p.m. ET June 27 for “Where are the Children?”  — a webinar that will offer expert insight on this unfolding situation, explore the impact of these policies on families and children, and learn about GCIR’s recommendations on how philanthropy can respond. TFN is proud to sign on as a co-sponsor of this event, along with the Council on Foundations, the Early Childhood Funders Collaborative, Hispanics in Philanthropy, Philanthropy California, Philanthropy New York, United Philanthropy Forum, and others. (Register here.)

Below are additional responses from leaders in philanthropy, including TFN members and other philanthropy-supporting organizations, as well as resources for funders.

Philanthropy Responds:

Ana Marie Argilagos, president and CEO of Hispanics in Philanthropy

Five Ways You Can Stand up for Immigrant Children and Families Today:Despite President Trump’s executive order ending his administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents, the government will continue to treat all immigrants as criminals and to lock families in cages along the U.S.-Mexico border. Make no mistake: this executive order does not fix the damage inflicted on children or their families. Nor does it prevent future trauma. The Trump administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy is intended to inflict pain, fear, and suffering on children and their parents.”

Dave Biemesderfer, President & CEO of the United Philanthropy Forum

Stop Separating Families at the Border. Now:  I am speaking out against our federal government’s cruel and inhumane actions because, well, what is the alternative? Staying silent is simply not an option. This is not a political issue, as demonstrated by the growing calls to end this despicable policy by people from across the political spectrum. This is not about enforcing laws, which needs to be done. This is about treating people humanely. This is a philanthropic issue. Philanthropy is about loving and caring for all people, particularly those who are less fortunate than ourselves. It’s about treating others as we would want to be treated.”

Fred Blackwell, CEO, The San Francisco Foundation 

Restore Our Humanity “We have been profoundly disturbed by these actions. For more than 30 years, we have been an active partner that has supported immigrants and their families. What is happening in our country is not simply an immigrant rights issue. It is a civil rights issue. It is a human rights issue. And while it has been politicized, it should be a nonpartisan issue.”

Maureen Lawless, Interim President & CEO, Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities

Silence is Not an Option: “I’ll repeat what we shared last summer, in the wake of the Charlottesville protests: Hatred is not a point of view, or a difference of opinion. There should not — and can never — be any moral equivocation when it comes to denouncing hateful philosophies and inhumane policies. As an organization that represents a broad diversity of funders from across the U.S. and Canada, and as an organization with a diverse staff — many of whom are immigrants or the children of immigrants — I want to reaffirm once more the values of equity and inclusion that inform the work we do, the work we support and the outcomes we seek to achieve.”

Shane Murphy Goldsmith, President/CEO, Liberty Hill Foundation

Liberty Hill Statement on Family Separation: “Like many other people across the nation, I went home every night this last week to hug my children a little tighter, feeling extreme sorrow for those families who were denied the same opportunity by our government.”

Grant Oliphant, President, The Heinz Endowments

We Are What We Do: “Still left in place are the official lies about the nature and magnitude of that threat. The verifiable truth—that most refugees are fleeing violence not agents of it, that even according to ICE almost all report as required for hearings when given their freedom, that immigrants create far more jobs than they fill—is lost in fear-mongering rhetoric crawling with bias and falsehoods. ”

Philanthropy California, an alliance of California grantmakers

(Signed by Christine Essel, President & CEO, Southern California Grantmakers;  Nancy Jamison,  President & CEO,  San Diego Grantmakers; Ellen LaPointe, President & CEO, Northern California Grantmakers)

A Statement from Philanthropy California: “Our nation has long been a place of promise of safety and respite from harm. Today, for thousands of children and their families, that promise has been replaced with peril. Separating children from their parents inflicts unnecessary trauma on children that can cause lasting harm. (See the American Academy of Pediatrics’ 2017 policy statement regarding child health impact of separation). The current practices at the border are an affront to the shared values of decency, humanity, and compassion that underpin our work in philanthropy, and that we believe to be fundamental to a civil society.”

Robert K. Ross, M.D., President and CEO, The California Endowment

A Father’s Day Outrage: “As a pediatrician, a father, and a human being, I cannot be silent in the face of such cruelty.  There is no excuse and there is no justification for this atrocity.  It is wrong, it is unnecessary, and it is deeply traumatic to tear innocent children away from their parents. Struggling parents who risked their lives in the belief that the United States was still the only place in this world where some measure of safety and justice could still be gained are devastated. And all of us are forced to endure this abomination in our name.”


Additional Resources:

ACLU Foundation is a national organization that has defended the civil rights of individuals for nearly a century. Its Immigrant Rights Project is a unit within the ACLU that defends the rights of immigrants and is currently litigating family separation issues.

Center for Gender and Refugee Studies (CGRS)* is a national organization that protects the fundamental human rights of refugee women, children, LGBT individuals, and others who flee persecution in their home countries. CGRS is taking the lead in responding to the administration’s attempts to dismantle asylum protections for victims of domestic violence.

Central American Resource Center of Northern California (CARECEN) responds to the needs, rights, and aspirations of immigrant families in the Bay Area through direct services, community development, and advocacy. CARECEN leads efforts to protect and provide services to unaccompanied immigrant children.

Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) is a national organization that engages in policy advocacy. With offices in ten cities, including San Francisco and Washington D.C., KIND trains pro bono lawyers to represent unaccompanied immigrant children in removal proceedings.

Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR): Philanthropic Strategies to Support Refugees and Asylum SeekersHispanics in Philanthropy: Learn about HIP’s fund to strengthen a safety net of lasting support and services for the families detained at the border.

Legal Services for Children is a Bay Area nonprofit organization that provides free representation, mental health, and case management services to children and youth to stabilize their lives and realize their full potential. They represent detained children and those in removal proceedings.

Liberty Hill Foundation: Rapid Response Fund for Young Immigrant Children.

Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) is a nonprofit organization that provides free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families and refugees in Central and South Texas. They have been raising funds to get parents out of detention so that they can be reunited with their children.

*Slate Magazine also has a growing list of local and national groups that work or are taking action on immigrant issues.

Has your foundation issued a response or call-to-action, or do you have a relevant resource to share? Please contact Tere Figueras Negrete, TFN’s communications director, at