Florida News Connection
September 8, 2023
By: Trimmel Gomes
Groups aiding immigrants in building economic
independence and pursuing citizenship are grappling with funding challenges exacerbated
by anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has celebrated strict new state laws limiting social services for those who are undocumented, and invalidating their drivers licenses issued by other states.
Millions more tax dollars are being used to expand his migrant relocation program, and hospitals getting Medicaid dollars are required to ask for a patient's immigration status.
Renata Bozzetto, deputy director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, said the policies create an environment which scares away donors.
"What we are seeing is a hostile context," Bozzetto pointed out. "The difficulty is the increased, I would say, a little bit less of space, that the state can be supportive to immigrants."
Less than a quarter of funding for migrant justice organizations comes from within Florida. The national funding average for pro-immigrant and pro-refugee groups is $7 per immigrant, compared with $1.50 in Florida, according to the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.
Cairo Mendes, director, state and local programs for the nonprofit Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees, said philanthropic donations are needed to match public dollars and support the work done for migrants and immigrants by nontraditional groups. But new laws like Florida's Senate Bill 1718 make it difficult to rally support.
"It's creating a chilling effect on these communities, and people have been leaving the state in droves," Mendes observed. "They're afraid to go to the hospital in case they need access to something, because they are afraid that their name, their address, all of that information is going to be shared with Immigration."
Mendes educates funding partners about on-the-ground needs in states. And Bozzetto noted she sees two types of funders: those who understand, and those who want to see immediate results. She explained the ones seeking quick change are leaving the state, because civic engagement takes time to deliver progress.
"That voter education process is much more costly than just doing a 'get-out-the-vote' initiative," Mendes emphasized.
Bozzetto added her group and others depend on donor support to provide legal aid and other direct services tackling the root causes of inequality and protect basic human rights.
Content for this Post is provided by Florida News Connection, a Bureau of Public News Service. Public News Service is a member of the The Trust Project.