Organization Trends

Immigration Deception: Alliance for Citizenship

How one foreign foundation poured $70 million into changing America’s immigration policies

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Alliance for Citizenship


Alliance for Citizenship (20132017)

Obama’s reelection fueled Atlantic Philanthropies’ third—and final—attempt at comprehensive immigration reform. Shortly after the 2012 election, Atlantic and George Soros’s Open Society Foundations invited some 40 unnamed donors to discuss strategy for a successor coalition to RIFA: the Alliance for Citizenship (AFC). As Atlantic saw it, RIFA had not addressed two major factors: Congress was divided, and many new left-wing immigration advocacy groups had “matured” in recent years. It could draw on a deeper bench of allies, but immigration bills would not pass on a strictly partisan basis. As one attendee put it, “If you believe the Republican Party is critical to the outcome, and you don’t have a Republican strategy, then you don’t have a strategy.”

Like RIFA, AFC was a project of Tides Advocacy. Between 2013 and 2015, Atlantic granted Tides just under $6 million for the project. Soros’s Open Society Foundations contributed at least another $1.7 million.

Unlike RIFA, AFC was almost entirely a communications hub. Through America’s Voice and other allies it pushed a message blaming Republicans for being “anti-immigrant” hatemongers and racists. Its pressure campaigning began with the “Gang of Eight” bill, a hotly debated compromise introduced in 2013 by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), John McCain (R-AZ), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The bill would have created a five-year path to citizenship for young illegal aliens (the so-called DREAMers), granted permanent resident status after living in the country above the poverty line for 10 years, overhauled the country’s guest-worker program and visa system, and eliminated the visa lottery.

Conservatives soured on the 800-page bill for failing to provide border fencing provisions, allowing illegal immigrants access to welfare programs, and not including workplace verification programs—effectively granting amnesty to upward of 11 million illegal aliens. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) calling it “an immigration version of Obamacare.” The bill passed the Senate but failed in the House.

Although Obama declared immigration reform the main priority for his second term in office, little came of it. In 2014 the Washington Post declared the issue effectively dead until a future administration could tackle it. Later that year Obama established DACA by executive order.

Fading into the Sunset

Without a doubt, Atlantic’s impatience to revolutionize America’s immigration system owed much to its own limited lifespan. When Chuck Feeney attached a 2020 sunset clause to his foundation, Atlantic committed itself to paying out its last grants in 2016, although it reports paying out millions of dollars in grants through 2019.

Although its campaigns failed to drive immigration reform through Congress, Atlantic Philanthropies credits itself with encouraging other liberal foundations to be more bold in their political giving:

The Atlantic Philanthropies has not acted in a vacuum; it has been a part of a vibrant funding community including organizations such as the Ford Foundation, Unbound Philanthropy, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Hagedorn Foundation, [George Soros’s] Open Society Foundations, and many others.

Atlantic succeeded in its other pressure campaign to pass Obamacare: Health Care for America Now. Yet despite the $100 million or so this Bermuda foundation pumped into U.S. politics, neither campaign has been scrutinized by the “dark money” hawks in the left-leaning media and political field.

Foreign money intended to change policy and sway U.S. elections is the very definition of “dark money,” yet to this writer’s knowledge no journalist at the New York Times, Washington Post, or Huffington Post has ever documented what are perhaps the worst examples of anonymous political spending—not to mention foreign meddling—in modern American history. Despite his tough talk about shadowy donors and cryptic special interests, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)—the biggest advocate of donor disclosure in Congress—has yet (to our knowledge) criticized Health Care for America Now or Reform Immigration for America.

What Atlantic’s incredible campaigns prove is that the professional Left is very good at faking grassroots activism, coordinating swarms of activists to ram home a single issue in Congress. Perhaps it’s too good, given another echo chamber—Health Care for America now—likely ruined Atlantic’s illegal immigration coalition. In an alternate 2020, we might be documenting its success—and the defeat of Obamacare and HCAN.

With Atlantic’s looming demise the Alliance for Citizenship seems unlikely to have a successor, but the Left’s desire to weaponize foundations and tax-exempt charities to win elections is more powerful than ever. The Atlantic model has worked once before, and there’s every reason to assume it will be tried again. With open-borders radicals back in the White House and Congress in 2021, we may see it again quite soon.

Hayden Ludwig

Hayden Ludwig is the Director of Policy Research at Restoration of America. He was formerly Senior Investigative Researcher at Capital Research Center. Ludwig is a native of Orange County, California,…
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