“There’s a history of anti-immigration sentiment even when the states were colonies,” says Fernando Chang-Muy, professor of immigration and refugee law at Penn Law. “Actually, the beginning is anti-German feeling.” Benjamin Franklin spoke out against German immigrants, asking in 1751, “Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion?”
Racially based fear of newcomers fueled policies such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which barred Chinese laborers from entering the United States and was not repealed until 1943. “We have a history of both accepting people from other countries into our territory and we have a very sad, horrible history of turning people away,” notes Chang-Muy. “You might have ancestors who tried to come in. They were stopped at the border, Ellis Island, they were checked for diseases and other things like communism, and if any of those things were found they were excluded.” Within our borders, immigrants have faced forced relocation, incarceration, separation from family members, and other violence.
Immigrant rights advocate Ana Lisa Yoder traces the thread of this history to today. “Immigrants and refugees have been under attack for a long time, but in the last year and a half, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in policies and practices that dehumanize, violate human rights, and are creating long-lasting trauma in whole communities,” she says. “Ground-up strategies that centralize the voices of those directly impacted are imperative to creating meaningful change. If we ever needed movements for immigration justice, it is now.”
The next Giving Project at Bread & Roses, which begins in September, will raise money and make grants through a special Immigration Justice Fund. Yoder explains why she chose to join this Giving Project: “My uncle, who was a civil rights activist, died recently. I’ve been thinking a lot about him, what he might have been doing in this moment, and what more I can do to work for justice as he did.” The deadline to apply for a grant from the Immigration Justice Fund is October 12.
Yoder is keen to meet and begin work with her fellow Giving Project members. “I believe deeply in the power of collective action,” she says. “Having participated in traditional grantmaking over the years, the idea of ordinary people building power through grassroots fundraising gives me hope for change — so very needed in these times.”