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Kresge participates in 2019 National Immigrant Integration Conference to support immigrant and refugee communities


The 2019 National Immigrant Integration Conference (NIIC) — the largest gathering of immigrant and refugee rights advocates and policymakers in the nation that took place in Detroit on October 20-22 — uplifted and addressed the most pressing issues facing immigrant and refugee communities in the U.S.

The overarching themes included civic engagement of immigrant and refugee communities leading into the 2020 election season and the census, how to protect and expand immigrants rights and access to justice and how to best integrate new Americans into the social and economic mainstream of American society in a way that is just and equitable.

The 2019 National Immigrant Integration Conference plenary session “Winning the Future: From Hate to Hope”
Kresge Chief Program and Strategy Officer Ari Simon (second from left) participated in the 2019 National Immigrant Integration Conference plenary session “Winning the Future: From Hate to Hope.”

The Kresge Foundation had a large presence at the event both as a sponsor and as speakers.

Kathy Ko Chin, Kresge Trustee and President and CEO of the Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum, participated on the plenary “New Deal for New Americans,” which focused on the National Partnership for New Americans’ (NPNA) platform to reshape federal, state and local policies to expand equity and shared prosperity for immigrants and refugees. She appeared alongside: Steve Choi, NPNA and the New York Immigration Coalition; Congressman Jesus “Chuy” García; Executive Warren C. Evans, Wayne County Executive and Luz Vega-Marquis, Marguerite Casey Foundation.

In her remarks, Chin noted that: “Immigration and residency status is the single greatest determinant of whether you are covered for health insurance. In fact, it determines everything.”  She also argued that the very contentious fight over public charge and eligibility over whom can receive public benefits illustrated how services for immigrants can be “weaponized” against deserving individual and families. To combat this injustice, Chin urged NIIC attendees to help immigrants get out to vote and be counted in the upcoming census in 2020. She also discussed the importance of data to illustrate the gaps in health insurance and health outcomes for immigrants, refugees and communities of color.

In his plenary session, “Winning the Future: From Hate to Hope,” Ari Simon, vice president, chief program and strategy officer, who also oversees Kresge’s Opportunity Fund, shared his family’s immigrant and refugee story and how those experiences drew him to the work of immigrant and refugee rights. “There’s a core principle in Judaism — that’s tied to the migration narrative —  and that is: I am here.” Simon noted that the troubling moment in which we find ourselves required Kresge to step up and step out in new ways as far as the foundation’s grantmaking. He added that: “There’s a deep need to recommit to core dimensions of American civic engagement to prepare for 2020 from the census to voter registration to power building of communities we care about.”

While NIIC is a new partnership for Kresge, this engagement builds on existing work the foundation is undertaking to support immigrant-serving grantees:

  • The Opportunity Fund is leading Kresge’s response to increased anti-immigrant bias and policies; it is joined by other national programs and our Detroit Program in serving immigrant and refugee communities around the country. It’s a fundamental way Kresge addresses the intersection of urban opportunity and the needs of immigrants and refugees. The Opportunity Fund made $2,835,000 in grants to support immigrant communities from 2017-2019 and made 24 grants total from 2017-2019.
  • Along with the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, The Ford Foundation & Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees, Kresge helped create the Southeast Michigan Immigrant and Refugee Funders Collaborative.  This the first funders table ever for immigrants and refugees in Southeast Michigan.
  • The Kresge Foundation’s response to the possibly crippling challenges to the 2020 Census is twofold:
    • A suite of grants to shore up the integrity of the census count nationally and in Michigan.
    • ​Taking the unprecedented step of joining peer philanthropic partners to submit an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court to highlight how philanthropy uses and relies upon census data, along with why a fair and accurate 2020 Census count is fundamentally important to the work of the sector.
    • To date, Kresge has invested $900,000 in 2020 census-related grants.
    • Kresge’s Opportunity Fund supports and participates in a funders table – at New Venture Fund which works nationally to promote “Get-Out-The-Count” efforts to reach hard-to-count populations such as black, Latino, Asian, elderly and low-income communities.
    • A joint grant between the Opportunity Fund and the Detroit Program to support the Council of Michigan Foundations and Michigan Non-Profit Association’s work to ensure a fair accurate count in Michigan, with an emphasis on turnout in southeastern Michigan.