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Newsroom Press release

The Way Forward on Immigration Reform

The Open Society Foundations are disappointed that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit decision declined to lift the injunction on certain provisions of President Obama’s hallmark immigration executive actions. While this is only a preliminary ruling, it delays the important efforts to remove the threat of deportation and provide work permits to up to five million undocumented persons.

The Open Society Foundations believe the executive actions are well within the president’s authority, supported by the Constitution and bipartisan precedent dating back more than 50 years, and expect that they will ultimately be upheld by the courts. For these reasons, the Open Society Foundations are pleased to announce that we will be making an initial investment of $8 million to support efforts to maximize successful applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA).

These policies will help ensure that communities across the country can realize the substantial and shared benefits that will occur by supporting immigrants once the government gets the go-ahead from the courts. Our investments are also intended to build capacity for immigrant-serving organizations in key parts of the country, and to encourage communities and new funders to join in these efforts, which will promote stable families, further civic participation, increase public revenues, and foster inclusive communities. We are prepared to invest further, along with key partners and allies in the public sector and philanthropy at the national and local level, as events unfold.

Why the significant investment in these policies? Several points about the executive actions are worth noting:

  1. These policies recognize the longstanding ties many undocumented persons have to their communities. According to the Center for Migration Studies of New York, over 50 percent of those eligible under the guidelines have been in the country since 2000.
  2. Individuals who receive deferred action are also temporarily eligible for work authorization, which is directly tied to poverty alleviation, community and local economic development, and the fiscal health of local governments. Not only will the issuance of work permits significantly improve the working conditions and prevent abuses of undocumented persons, but leading economic experts suggest that these policies will raise an additional $3 billion in payroll taxes in year one, and $22.6 billion over five years.
  3. The DAPA provisions target the undocumented parents of the estimated 4.5 million children who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. This strengthens families and avoids devastating harm to children whose parents might otherwise be deported.

Because of our belief in the broad benefits of these policies, Open Society is offering to match contributions from community and local foundations and funder collaboratives interested in increasing the number of people successfully applying for deferred action under President Obama’s Immigration Accountability Executive Actions. We have initiated efforts to gauge interest, and will be communicating with a wide array of such groups across the country in the days and weeks ahead. (See the request for letters of interest we’ve sent out, which includes a list of Frequently Asked Questions that explain the local challenge match in more detail.)

We are undertaking these efforts because we believe in the right and ability of all residents to participate fully in the civic and economic life of the country. While comprehensive immigration reform is what this nation needs, too many in Congress failed in their responsibility to address our immigration challenges appropriately. Thus, these programs offer a necessary but incomplete step forward. Our founder, George Soros, created the Emma Lazarus Fund in the mid-1990s when Congress cut off benefits for legal immigrants in the United States, undermining this nation’s historic commitment to openness. We are pleased to do our part in supporting this new step toward a more truly open society.


The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. Working with local communities in more than 100 countries, the Open Society Foundations support justice and human rights, freedom of expression, and access to public health and education.

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