50th Annual Meeting Speaker Highlight: Daranee Petsod

Just as the treatment of immigrants, asylum-seekers and other refugees has emerged as a regular topic in the news, in the halls of Congress and in the race for president, it has also risen as an area of concern for philanthropy in the Southeast and beyond.

Fortunately, foundations seeking to support these populations, or deepen their existing work, have a go-to resource available to them: Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees, led by Daranee Petsod, the organization’s president. 

At this year’s Annual Meeting, attendees will be able to hear from Petsod in person. “How Did We Get Here on Immigration?”, a session set for the meeting’s first day, will help participants understand the history of immigration in the United States and how it shapes and informs current-day practices.

In a recent letter addressing several recent news stories focused on immigrants – ICE raids in Mississippi, the ongoing detention crisis at the Southern border, and mass shootings in Gilroy, Calif., and El Paso, Texas, that targeted Latinx people – Petsod urged foundations to make support for immigrant families an ongoing part of their regular grantmaking.

“Add funding for rapid response to your overall annual grantmaking budget,” she wrote. “Having readily available funds for this purpose will allow you to make grants quickly when these events occur, particularly outside of your geographic area, issue focus, or grantee pool.”

Much like disaster relief funding, however, philanthropy must also look at long-term strategies to support these populations, Petsod wrote.

“If we are to effect lasting change, we must look beyond discrete events to the larger agenda motivating these attacks,” she writes. “We must strengthen our resolve to be vigilant guardians over our neighbors and our democracy. And we must invest in long-term strategies to build a society in which everyone values our shared humanity.”

While immigration from Central and South America has received the lion’s share of attention from philanthropy, many black immigrants from the Caribbean and Africa also make their way to America’s shores. In a recent interview with the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, Petsod urged funders to not ignore these groups and confront implicit biases they may carry.

“The experiences of Black immigrant and refugee communities are largely absent from the dialogue and strategies of both immigrant rights funders and racial equity funders,” she said. “Anti-Black racism – whether explicit or implicit, personal or structural – persists due to deep historical roots. In grantmaking, it shows up as concerns about organizational structure, capacity, financial management, qualifications of the leadership and expertise of staff, to name a few.”

Progress on this front is possible, Petsod said, pointing to recent work done by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

“Casey partnered with us to bring together stakeholders across issue areas affecting children: immigration, child welfare, criminal justice, et cetera,” she said. “The convening was intentional about including Black immigrant leaders and created space to discuss anti-Blackness and exclusion, as well as implications for Black immigrant children and children of Black immigrants.” 

One message Petsod consistently delivers to funders is that supporting immigrants and refugees is not a niche issue.

“Immigration is central to every funder who cares about creating a cohesive, equitable and inclusive society,” she said. “Immigration is about our shared future. Now more than ever, it is imperative that philanthropy embrace immigration as a cross-cutting issue, transcend funding silos and make long-term investments in immigrant communities.”

The 50th Annual Meeting session, "How Did We Get Here on Immigration?", featuring Petsod and Doris Meissner of the Migration Policy Institute, will take place at 3:30pm on Wednesday, November 13.


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