Boston Foundation makes four emergency grants to organizations that work to protect and support immigrants and other marginalized

December 16, 2016

Boston –– In light of recent news reports of tensions over immigration and vitriol directed at Muslims, immigrants to the United States, and members of the LGBTQ community, the Boston Foundation has announced four emergency funding distributions through its Open Door Grants program.

“For more than a century The Boston Foundation has made standing up for those who are under siege a pillar of our many missions,” said Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the Foundation. “Over the decades we have fought for civil rights, housing rights, and educational rights and protections, among other causes. We take the causes that inspired these emergency grants just as seriously. We believe that our continued support of those who need it most signals our resolve, and we hope in these trying times that resolve inspires others in the philanthropic sector to stand behind new and marginalized residents of our communities.”

The recipients of these emergency grants of $25,000 each are:

  • CAIR-MA, Inc., for general operating support. CAIR-MA is a chapter of the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization and advocates on behalf of community members experiencing discrimination on the basis of race, religion, and ethnicity. CAIR works to help dispel cultural misunderstandings and bridge gaps between diverse groups, serving the American Muslim community as well as educating the wider American public about Islam and American Muslims.
  • Irish International Immigrant Center, Inc. (IIIC), to support and expand the center’s immigration legal services for low-income immigrants in Greater Boston, which include free legal clinics, pro se work, and full representation.  The IIIC serves immigrants from more than 120 countries and aims to assist immigrants from around the world as they integrate into American society.
  • Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, Inc. (MIRA), for general operating support for its “Building Power to Defend Immigrants & Refugees in Boston and Beyond” initiative, with a focus on building local capacity to advance policies and legislation that will benefit immigrants and refugees in Greater Boston and beyond. MIRA is a member-driven collation representing the interests of all Massachusetts immigrants and refugees, whose programming includes legislative and policy advocacy, institutional organizing, legal assistance, and technical assistance for community organizations.
  • Silver Lining Mentoring, to expand its high intensity mentoring and life skills services for youth, approximately 80% of whom identify as people of color. SLM empowers youth in foster care to flourish through committed mentoring relationships and the development of essential life skills. The organization also welcomes youth of all genders and provides specific support for youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.  Funds would go towards a life skills support group for LGBTQ teens.

“While this quarter’s funding allotment for Open Door Grants was distributed to 20 excellent recipients last week, we at The Boston Foundation felt very strongly that the current negative climate in some quarters against our Muslim, immigrant, and LGBTQ populations warranted additional support to these deserving organizations that protect, serve, and help new residents of the United States and other marginalized groups acclimate and feel welcome,” said Orlando Watkins, Vice President for Programs at The Boston Foundation.

John Robbins, Executive Director of CAIR-MA, hailed the grants as crucial and timely.
"During these challenging times for the American Muslim community, in which many of our constituents feel beset on all sides, demonstrations of support like this are deeply meaningful,” Robbins said. “This grant will support us tremendously in our work of defending the rights of the Massachusetts Muslim community and advocating on their behalf on the local level, work which has never been more urgently needed."

Ronnie Millar, Executive Director of the Irish International Immigrant Center, added: "The Irish International Immigrant Center is grateful to the Boston Foundation for making it possible for more low-income immigrants to access essential legal protections at this critical time.  The Foundation's generous support enables us to provide expanded legal counsel and representation to Boston area immigrants."

And Eva Millona, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, called the grant and MIRA’s work urgent.

“In the current political environment, we need more than ever to advance policies that protect and defend immigrant and refugee families and workers and work with partners including local government, social justice organizations, and institutional allies, to create a welcoming environment for all residents,” Millona said. “We all need to help build a robust Greater Boston and statewide capability to train and empower local organizations to meet the needs of their communities. Partners like The Boston Foundation show the critical role that philanthropies can play in responding to urgent community need and supporting long term social change."

The Open Door Grants program is designed to respond to the expressed ideas and needs of the community and are made to nonprofits that are not directly aligned with the strategies, goals, and approaches pursued in the five impact areas the Foundation has focused on since 2009 and will continue to focus on until at least 2020.

This fiscal year, the Foundation allocated approximately $2 million to the program.  Response has been quite strong, with more than 300 applicants received in the first two quarters.  With the addition of these four emergency grants, 48 organizations have received Open Door Grants since the first group of grantees were announced in October.