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Refugees, Asylum Seekers and the US

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The U.S. has long been a destination for people seeking asylum.

There are more than 41 million immigrants in the U.S. However, the country is not always welcoming to them.

Federal and state legislation and actions increasingly make it difficult for asylum seekers and migrants to enter the country, and the United States spends almost $2 billion annually detaining immigrants. With the end of Title 42 legislation (see below), there is expected to be a huge surge of claimants at all borders.

Those seeking asylum in 2023 are fleeing complex humanitarian emergencies, including Venezuela, the war in Ukraine, the Northern Triangle of Central America and Haiti. These contexts have made meeting basic survival needs a daily struggle for much of the population. Many face persecution in their country of origin, particularly those already marginalized, leading people to seek a better life and protection for themselves and their families.

Many people use the words refugee, asylum seeker (sometimes called an asylee) and migrant interchangeably, but they are all different groups with different legal protections and rights. The following two definitions are from Amnesty International:

“A refugee is a person who has fled their own country because they are at risk of serious human rights violations and persecution there. The risks to their safety and life were so great that they felt they had no choice but to leave and seek safety outside their country because their own government cannot or will not protect them from those dangers. Refugees have a right to international protection.

An asylum seeker is a person who has left their country and is seeking protection from persecution and serious human rights violations in another country, but who hasn’t yet been legally recognized as a refugee and is waiting to receive a decision on their asylum claim. Seeking asylum is a human right. This means everyone should be allowed to enter another country to seek asylum.”

While there is no internationally agreed-upon definition of a migrant, states that a migrant is “someone who is moving from place to place (within his or her country or across borders), usually for economic reasons such as seasonal work.”

(Photo: Migrant camp near the U.S. border in Tijuana, Mexico. Credit: Barbara Zandoval on Unsplash)

Once someone has been approved for asylum, they become a refugee and are entitled to all rights granted to refugees through the 1951 Refugee Convention. This includes being able to work with an employment visa. They may be granted some rights while their asylum case is in review.

As mentioned above, asylum seekers come from many countries around the world. In the 2022 Fiscal Year (Oct. 1, 2021 to Sept. 30, 2022), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recorded almost 2.8 million encounters from countries as disparate as China, Colombia, Cuba, El Salvador, India, Mexico, Myanmar, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and Venezuela. More than 1.5 million encounters have already occurred in the first six months of the 2023 fiscal year (October 1 to March 31), including 70,000 unaccompanied minors.

This compares to less than 700,000 encounters in all of 2020. The increase in the number of people fleeing their countries corresponds to the global rise in humanitarian needs and forced displacement resulting primarily from the impacts of disasters caused by climate change, conflict, persecution, human rights violations and, more recently, COVID-19, which presented its own risks and further compounded existing crises.

Encounters at U.S. borders were at an all-time high in fiscal years 2021 and 2022, while the number of refugees admitted to the U.S. was at its second-lowest (excluding 2020 and 2021, when few people were admitted because of COVID) since 1990 – only 25,465 people. When the U.S. admits fewer people as refugees, there is more need for people to seek asylum in other ways.

Throughout this profile, when the term “border” is used, it refers to any border of the United States, which includes the world’s longest undefended border with Canada, a border with Mexico and several U.S. states, and water borders on several coasts. However, most people cross along the U.S. border with Mexico, known as the Southwest Land Border.

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Key facts
  • According to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), “The right to seek asylum upon reaching U.S. soil at the U.S.-Mexico border is established by Section 208 of the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the fundamental U.S. immigration law. This right exists regardless of nation of origin, the route taken to the border, or the means by which the migrant crossed into the United States.”
  • new agreement signed in October 2022 stranded tens of thousands of Venezuelans in Mexico or en route to the United States with no opportunity to access the U.S. Those who were already en route – estimated to be over 50,000 – were ineligible to even apply to enter the United States. Additionally, this agreement only applies to Venezuelan residents with a U.S. sponsor who will “provide housing and other supports” and pay for their flights because the only way to enter the United States under this new agreement is by air.
  • CBP detention facilities operated with an average census of over double their capacity during some months of Fiscal Year. According to the CBP Newsroom, border patrol facilities in the southwest (the border with Mexico) have a capacity of approximately 5,600 prisoners. While every month in 2022 was over capacity, March, May and September 2022 saw more than two prisoners for every cell. In December 2021 (included as part of FY 2022), there was a daily average of 12,449 prisoners in facilities with a capacity of less than half that.
  • A Safe Third Country agreement means that if an individual traveled through a country deemed a “safe third country” by the U.S. government, they would be returned to that country to apply for asylum rather than having the opportunity to apply for asylum in the U.S. Currently, the U.S. has a limited safe third-country agreement with Canada (asylum seekers in either direction are returned).
  • While not technically a Safe Third County agreement, the
    U.S. and Mexico reached an agreement at the beginning of May 2023 that allows the U.S. to return asylum seekers who cross through Mexico from Haiti, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. The U.S. agrees to take applicants from several of these countries who apply from overseas and have a U.S. sponsor. Mexico also processes expulsions from citizens of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
Migrant Protection Protocols

The Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as the “Remain in Mexico” program, forced migrants to return to Mexico to wait for an asylum hearing. This program is currently caught in legal wrangling, with a mid-December 2022 ruling not allowing the Biden administration to rescind it, as per the June 2022 Supreme Court

However, the December ruling did not require the Biden administration to reinstate the policy. Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced in February 2023 that it would reject all efforts to reinstate the policy. From 2018 to mid-August 2022, the Remain in Mexico program sent over 70,000 asylum seekers back to Mexico, where they faced dangerous living conditions and risks of violence and assault from gangs.

Human Rights First, as of December 15, 2022, “tracked over 13,480 reports of murder, torture, kidnapping, rape, and other violent attacks on migrants and asylum seekers blocked in or expelled to Mexico” since January 2021.

Why are people leaving their homes?

The reasons people have for leaving their homes are as varied as the countries that they arrive from. Some are fleeing war, like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or conflict in places like Myanmar and Yemen. Others are fleeing from countries ravaged by extreme poverty, multiple disasters, human rights violations, climate change, persecution and gang violence. Some are fleeing complex humanitarian emergencies in and around places like Venezuela and the Horn of Africa.

Meghan Lopez, the International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) regional vice president for Latin America, says, “People are usually displaced within their own countries first. … However, the vast majority encounter risks and deteriorating living conditions similar to the ones they fled, leaving them no choice but to seek safety elsewhere.”

Here are a few examples from IRC of the kinds of conditions and situations people are fleeing:

“Honduras is considered the most dangerous country in the region, with a homicide rate of 38 per 100,000 people. Gender-based violence is rampant; one woman is killed every 36 hours. With chronic gang violence, extreme weather caused by climate change and the impacts of COVID-19 worsening the crisis, the number of people in need of aid has more than doubled since 2020.

Venezuela is seeing one of the largest external displacement crises in the world, only behind Syria and Ukraine. Deteriorating living conditions, including rising hunger, economic instability and escalating conflict, have gotten even worse since the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 6 million people have left the country since 2014.

Even before the pandemic, basic public services were severely weakened, with over 30,000 doctors leaving the country during the last decade and a third of hospitals having no access to drinking water.

In Haiti, killings and kidnappings are on the rise, with 40% of the capital city Port-au-Prince controlled by criminal groups. Gangs also have control over ports and transport routes, blocking the flow of basic goods and hampering humanitarian access to deliver aid.

In the summer of 2021, the assassination of Haiti’s president was followed by a powerful earthquake and a tropical storm that hit within days of one another. Infrastructure and services in Haiti have been decimated in the last decade. Haiti is also experiencing the world’s longest recession, with an estimated 60 percent of the population living in poverty.”

Additionally, an October 2022 report from the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights found: “Children as young as 10 and elderly women have been subjected to sexual violence – including collective rapes for hours in front of their parents or children by more than half a dozen armed elements – amid an explosion of gang violence in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince …

Gangs use sexual violence to instill fear, and alarmingly the number of cases increases by the day as the humanitarian and human rights crisis in Haiti deepens … The gruesome testimonies shared by victims underscore the imperative for urgent action to stop this depraved behaviour, ensure that those responsible are held to account, and the victims are provided support.”

A New Humanitarian article from November 2022 stated that 96,000 people have been displaced by gang violence. It added, “Haitian women and children are not just being caught up in the country’s spiralling gang wars – they are increasingly being targeted for rapes, torture, kidnappings, and killings by the 200 armed groups that now control 60% of the capital. On top of the daily struggle to survive, many are being left with trauma or injuries from attacks.”

What are conditions like along the way?

Asylum-seekers from South American countries like Colombia and Venezuela must cross the dangerous Darien Gap, a 65-mile stretch of jungle between Colombia and Panama, where they face poisonous snakes, insects, terrorist groups, unexploded Cold War-era bombs, and both organized and random acts of violence. Women and girls, as well as members of the LGBTQIA+ community, are especially susceptible to gender-based violence by other migrants and the criminals who prey on those seeking to reach the U.S.

Many asylum-seekers attempt to access the U.S. by purchasing services from criminal gangs specializing in human smuggling. This is a trade that is worth a combined estimated $6.75 billion every year on just two routes: Africa to Europe and South America to North America.

According to the New York Times, “Migrant smuggling on the U.S. southern border has evolved over the past 10 years from a scattered network of freelance “coyotes” into a multi-billion-dollar international business controlled by organized crime, including some of Mexico’s most violent drug cartels.”

Many of these criminals are deliberately misleading asylum seekers about immigration policies and conditions at the U.S. border through misinformation posted on social media. By taking advantage of the poor English skills and lack of education of many asylum seekers, this misinformation is designed to push people to use gangs of smugglers instead of attempting to make the treacherous crossing on their own. Despite the promises of support and organization, people who are being smuggled across the U.S. border are often left to fend for themselves in deadly situations.

Those who don’t try to cross by land can also find themselves in deadly situations. More and more often, asylum seekers from South America are attempting to reach the United States by sea instead of by land. In May 2022, a boat used for human smuggling capsized off Eastern Mexico, leaving three people dead – all migrants from Honduras. In the Gulf of Mexico, asylum-seekers from Cuba, Haiti and other countries are also seeking refuge by sea in growing numbers. In September 2022, 18 Cuban migrants were missing and presumed dead after their boat sank during Hurricane Ian.

According to the Missing Migrants Project, 2022 saw the highest number of deaths and disappearances of migrants in the Caribbean since recording began in 2014. There were at least 321 disappearances and deaths of whom, “66 were women, 64 men, and 28 boys, girls, and adolescents, while 163 remain unidentified.”

Tijuana shelters are already at capacity, and shelter directors are worried about what will happen if there is a surge on the border. Currently, there are 10,000 migrants in Tijuana, according to the Municipal Office of Migrant Services, with about half that number staying in one of the city’s 30 shelters.

What happens at the U.S. border?

The right to seek asylum is enshrined in both international and U.S. law. According to the International Rescue Committee, “People arriving at the U.S. border have the right to request asylum without being criminalized, turned back, used for political stunts or separated from their children.”

Those who arrive at a designated Port of Entry can apply for asylum immediately. Typically, they are transported to an ICE detention center where they will be interviewed to determine whether their claim for asylum meets the definition of credible or reasonable fear of persecution or torture. This process can take between two weeks and two months to complete, with the asylum seeker remaining in the detention center throughout the process.

If the interviewer determines that there is a credible fear, the asylum-seeker will face a second interview in which their asylum status will be determined. After this second interview, the asylum seeker may be granted asylum, along with their spouse and any unmarried children under 21. This also entitles an asylum seeker to receive applicable benefits. If they are not granted asylum, they will be processed for removal and have a final opportunity to present their case for asylum to an immigration judge. If the immigration judge does not grant them asylum, they are deemed inadmissible to the United States and removed under Title 8.

However, new legislation that went into effect on May 10, 2023, changes some of this process. Migrants will not be able to request asylum if they did not request refugee status in another country – including Mexico – as they traveled to the U.S. southern border. Migrants can try to get an appointment to enter through a mobile app. The rule will not apply to unaccompanied minor children.

Title 42

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States has also used another section of federal law, known as Title 42, to remove people from the United States. People expelled under Title 42 were deemed inadmissible because the officer who first encountered or interviewed them believed they might spread COVID-19.

From March 2020 to March 2023, almost 2.8 million migrants were expelled at the U.S. – Mexico border, under Title 42.

According to Hispanics in Philanthropy,

“The traumatic consequences of Title 42 will still be present in our communities for a long time. What’s worse is the new set of policies that will make access to safe territory, asylum and rights protection difficult for migrants. In just the last few months, there has been a disturbing racial bias and challenges in the implementation of the CBP One app. The right to asylum cannot depend on one application. Even with complementary migration policies, such as the extended use of parole and the creation of regional processing centers, we remain concerned. These measures are only slight modifications to an unnecessarily complicated system that lacks fair protections or even an intentional strategy to address root causes for people fleeing violence or forcibly displaced in the Americas. Our allies have also highlighted over and over again that the structural causes of migration and displacement have not been addressed.”

The use of this legislation expired on May 11, 2023 (coinciding with the end of the U.S. COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.) It is believed that the end of this program will see a surge of migrant claims, especially at the southwest land border. Mayors of several cities along the southwest land border have already issued state of emergency declarations. The U.S. federal government has sent 1,500 active-duty troops to the border to help deal with the anticipated surge.

Some places, like Denver, Colorado, are already seeing a massive surge of asylum seekers, which is exceeding the ability of the city and state to respond without increased federal assistance.

CNN reported on May 9, that “US Customs and Border Protection has already seen an uptick in migrants crossing the border with Mexico, with more than 8,000 daily encounters, according to a Homeland Security official – a number that officials predict could reach 10,000 once Title 42 is lifted. There are around 25,000 migrants in custody, the official said, straining processing facilities that are already over capacity.”

Source: WOLA
What are the conditions for those detained at the border?

According to the American Immigration Lawyers Association, “Conditions in CBP custody are notorious for their harshness and inadequacies. Whether inside or in outside holding ‘pens,’ CBP detains migrants in dangerous conditions. These facilities can be dangerously overcrowded, migrants forced to wear soiled or dripping wet clothes for days, and the only ‘hot meal’ offered are frozen burritos.”

In early 2021, hundreds of kids were found living in plastic sheathed “pods” designed for 260 – though some contained over 400 children. An investigation by Politico Magazine and The Marshall Project found that approximately 1 in 3 migrants held in border patrol detention centers were children. These kids were left to sleep on concrete floors with bright lights that interfered with their ability to sleep.

In September 2022, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called on the U.S.  government to close one of its detention centers run by CoreCivic, a for-profit company that earned $1.86 billion in 2021 – most of it from their prisons. The ACLU spoke out after a migrant committed suicide at the facility. The New York Times noted that there was a lengthy history of problems at this facility which houses only 160 immigrants – but where ICE pays for over 500 beds daily whether they are used or not. In October, Canadian immigration experts presented their case to the Supreme Court of Canada that the United States should not be considered a safe country to which migrants can return based on conditions for those detained in immigration facilities. In November 2022, a bipartisan review of conditions at an immigration detention center in Georgia found that immigrants “endured excessive, unnecessary gynecological procedures, often without consent.”

What else happens once they reach the U.S.?

Asylum seekers are often subject to physical and emotional abuse from misinformed people who do not understand how the asylum and refugee process works. Thanks in part to partisan news sources that use inflammatory rhetoric, asylum seekers can be subject to race-based abuse or forced into illegal employment by people who threaten or manipulate them using their immigration status. Many are forced to live in homeless shelters, some of which are many miles from organizations that can provide employment, health and other supports.

Once they reach the United States and are granted permission to stay, asylum seekers may still be forcefully relocated by politicians and communities that are unwelcoming to asylees, migrants and refugees. Thousands of people granted legal access to the United States, whether through the asylum process or another process, have been forcefully relocated to “Sanctuary Cities,” where laws have been enacted prohibiting the removal of migrants and refugees. Republican governors in both Texas and Florida have sent asylees to places like New York City, Chicago, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia in what appears to be attention-seeking publicity stunts.

These relocations are unilateral, with refugees and asylees packed into buses and sent to cities that are unprepared to receive them and without coordination between those sending the refugees and the cities receiving them. In September 2022, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis paid for 48 asylees to be flown from San Antonio, Texas to Martha’s Vineyard without the knowledge of Texas Governor Greg Abbott or anyone on Martha’s Vineyard.

These individuals were reportedly recruited by a former military counterintelligence officer and then abandoned in Martha’s Vineyard with no support, and nobody prepared to meet them. Abbott has relocated 13,200 people from Texas to Chicago, D.C. and New York since April 2022. This is part of his plan to remove people crossing the borders into the state and has cost $26 million.

What happens if denied entry?

People who are denied entry into the U.S. are either returned to the country they crossed from (Mexico or Canada usually) or to their home country. The safe transit policies recently agreed upon between Mexico and the U.S. mean that individuals from several countries can be returned to Mexico, instead of their home country, an act that is significantly cheaper for the U.S.

Denial will rely heavily now on Title 8 legislation (mentioned above). According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, “Individuals who unlawfully cross the U.S. Southwest border: will generally be processed under Title 8 expedited removal authorities in a matter of days; will be barred from reentry to the United States for at least five years if ordered removed; and would be presumed ineligible for asylum under the proposed Circumvention of Lawful Pathways regulation, absent an applicable exception.”

Addressing issues of asylum-seeking and the factors that cause people to leave their homes is a matter that needs international attention. It is not going to be easy and will be a long-term process. It will take a combination of political will, advocacy, policy changes and increased funding for humanitarian aid at the border, in countries of origin, and in neighboring refugee and asylee hosting countries. In addition, the root causes of humanitarian crises need to be addressed, and solutions must involve human rights, international development and peacebuilding actors.

Systems must be established, including an emergency response network that can be activated when large numbers of asylum-seekers attempt to come to the U.S. There is no comprehensive, holistic and strategic plan to support large humanitarian influxes. This leads to a crisis that requires people to respond with increased force to keep people out, instead of a humanitarian approach focused on integration and settlement.

Hispanics in Philanthropy have suggested a three-prong approach:

  • Support organizations that are based in sending communities or those that migrants pass through on the way to the U.S. border.
  • Provide resources to shelters and other organizations at the Mexico-U.S. border. They are already incredibly overwhelmed and need support to help them meet the needs of migrants and asylum seekers.
  • Address the needs of migrants in cities throughout the country, especially in sanctuary cities that are receiving thousands of migrants. They also note the need for the organizations supporting migrants to receive support themselves due to the risk of burnout and trauma, in the wake of extreme caseloads and targeted violence.

Humanitarian support within the U.S.

There are several groups providing support to refugees and asylum seekers at the border and in communities where they settle. These services help individuals address their basic needs, including legal services, education, health care, housing support, etc. Navigating American systems is a challenge, especially for those who have experienced trauma or for whom English is not their primary language. Community organizations help individuals obtain the services that they need, including healing and emotional/spiritual care.

There is a need to support organizations providing these direct services, whether at the border, in sending countries, and any communities hosting migrants, refugees and asylees, especially in large numbers. People who have increased risk factors in settlement, including single mothers, people with disabilities, seniors, Indigenous communities, non-Spanish or English speakers etc., must receive targeted services to support their unique needs.

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy and National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (National VOAD) can support funders looking to find responding nonprofits on the U.S. side of the border.

CDP and InterAction are also sources of information for funders looking to find nonprofits responding to crises in countries outside of the USA. Some of the issues and humanitarian needs of those countries are addressed in our other profiles, including Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, Venezuela and Ukraine, and our weekly What We’re Watching Blog.


Invest in groups that are working for policy changes. This includes supporting faster and less complicated asylum processes; improved conditions in detainment centers; better support and services for those waiting to cross the border and those who have been granted asylum; stronger government support for migrants, asylees and refugees seeking work; and support for those who fight racial injustice for refugees, migrants, asylees and U.S. citizens.

The work for policy changes and advocacy must occur on both sides of the U.S. border, and in countries of origin for migrants. Advocacy for increased U.S. and international donor support to tackle root causes, improve negative conditions in sending countries, and adequately fund humanitarian response plans in disaster and crisis-affected countries is also important.

There is also a need to support calls for increased federal funding and assistance to cities and states experiencing large influxes of asylum seekers.

Multi-sectoral aid and support

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is the UN body responsible for monitoring and supporting people moving under both regular migration – which takes place within the laws of the receiving country – and irregular migration. Refugees are among a group generally known as forced migrants, those that do not have an option other than to leave their homes.

The IOM says: “Countries should promote stability, education and employment opportunities and reduce the drivers of forced migration, including by promoting resilience, thereby enabling individuals to make the choice between staying or migrating.”

Philanthropic support can work in countries of origin to create new opportunities for economic and physical stability, education at all levels from preschool to post-secondary and unique employment opportunities that may not be possible through UN or government-led aid programs.

Support Indigenous Peoples

Many support programs focus on Latinx migrants, but they tend to ignore the plight of Indigenous Peoples. This means many of the services provided for migrants and asylum seekers are Spanish-language-based and are not prepared in Indigenous languages. The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy puts forth three suggestions for supporting Indigenous migrants:

  • “Fund Indigenous-led migrant organizations.
  • Build the capacity of Indigenous-led groups.
  • Fund interpretation language justice initiatives for and by Indigenous people.”

CDP supports complex migration issues from two angles. Within the U.S., and specifically at the border, our CDP Disaster Recovery Fund, is poised to support needs of cross-border and migrant organizations. For the factors influencing migration in the sending communities, our CDP Global Recovery Fund, supports building stability by addressing humanitarian crises.

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Contact CDP

Philanthropic contributions

If you would like to make a donation to the CDP Disaster Recovery Fund or the CDP Global Recovery Fund, please contact development.

(Photo: U.S.-Mexico border in Tijuana. Credit: Barbara Zandoval on Unsplash)

Recovery updates

If you are a responding NGO, please send updates on how you are working in this crisis to Tanya Gulliver-Garcia.

We welcome the republication of our content. Please credit the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Donor recommendations

If you are a donor looking for recommendations on how to help with disaster recovery, please email Regine A. Webster.

Philanthropic and government support

CDP is tracking organizations that are responding. We are also in contact with and can grant to organizations that are not 501(c)3 entities.

In January 2022, CDP announced four grants from the CDP Disaster Recovery Fund to address U.S. humanitarian crises:

  • The UndocuBlack Network received $100,000 to provide policy and legal support for Black immigrants and refugees seeking a life in the United States. They will work with network partners to provide resources and to advocate for change within the United States immigration policies, seeking inclusive rights, steeped in racial justice.
  • The Transgender Law Center’s “Border Butterflies Project” received a $150,000 grant. This program supports LGBTQ+ migrants at the United States’ southern border and within the U.S. in response to their specific and often extreme marginalization. TLC provides legal and humanitarian assistance and connects LGBTQ+ migrants with local resources like healthcare, mental healthcare, and legal and social services.
  • Addressing the needs of unaccompanied minors arriving from Afghanistan and through the southern border of the United States is a critical mission. Through a $150,000 grant, KIND will expand its capacity to provide legal representation and reunification for children and their families. It will advocate for policy changes to improve the reunification process overall.
  • A $200,000 grant from CDP allows the Black Alliance for Just Immigration – BAJI to support Black migrants, immigrants and refugees entering the U.S. through the southern border with seeking asylum or other immigration needs. They also provide other humanitarian relief services as needed.

Hispanics in Philanthropy has a Migration program which “seeks to advance justice and protect the rights and conditions for migrants, asylum seekers and refugees throughout the US, Latin America and the Caribbean. HIP, with frontline organizations and migrant leaders, collectively address the root causes and often destabilizing impacts of migration as it is currently experienced by focusing on building power in our communities.”

From 2018-2021, they provided $14 million in funding to 110 migrant frontline organizations impacting more than 560,000 families. Their funding includes organizations working at the U.S.-Mexico border and in sending communities. The following are a sampling of the organizations they have funded:

  • HIP provided a $25,000 grant in July 2022 to Casa del Migrante de Matamoros, a nonprofit, Catholic-inspired organization that promotes and defends the human rights of migrants and refugees in Mexico.
  • Las Américas Immigrant Advocacy Center (El Paso) provides free and low-cost legal services to immigrants and refugees in West Texas and New Mexico. Las Américas provides legal representation through attorneys and accredited representatives through the Department of Justice. They received a $40,000 general support and operating grant from January 2023 to January 2024.
  • Casa del Migrante de Reynosa was given a $50,000 grant running from May 2022 to May 2024. The organization offers a dignified and safe place to migrants (deportees and humanitarian asylum seekers) who pass through the city of Reynosa, providing free basic services during their stay, such as: food, clothing, personal hygiene items, phone calls, medical care, psychological care, processing of some personal documents, etc.), and promoting their dignity, their family reunification and their social reintegration.
  • Derechos Humanos Integrales en Acción (Ciudad Juárez) is an organization that works under the principle of equality and non-discrimination. Its work is based on two areas: migrants and LGBTTTIQ+ population. In the area of migrants, DHIA has solid work in defense of the human rights of adults in transit, detention and repatriation conditions, as well as children and adolescents, border migrants, in transit and applicants for refugee status. HIP provided a two year (June 2022 to June 2024) $100,000 general support and operating grant.
  • Pastoral de la Movilidad Humana, Honduras promotes protagonism, citizen participation and defense of the human rights of people in mobility and advocacy with the government to obtain public policies for the common good, participating in the construction of a just, supportive and fraternal society. They received a two-year general support and operating grant of $70,000 from March 2021 to March 2023.
  • Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación – Radio Progreso (ERIC – RP) Honduras received a $60,000 general support and operating grant from September 2021 to September 2023. ERIC – RP works to guarantee and protect the human rights of migrants and forcibly displaced persons in situations of vulnerability with advocacy, awareness-raising and strategic alliances.

Philanthropic Strategies to Support Refugees and Asylum Seekers, a Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees report, examined the actions of 10 different philanthropies and put forward several suggestions for addressing critical needs:

  • “Encourage innovation and adaptation in volatile times. Think systemically and creatively.
  • Explore the benefits of collective grantmaking.
  • Take a holistic approach to addressing the needs of newcomer populations.
  • Enhance existing support to grantees by reevaluating grant requirements.
  • Leverage foundations’ bully pulpit, stature, and convening power.”


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Refugees are people who have been forced to flee their home countries because of persecution, war or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Many refugees are in exile to escape the effects of natural or human-made disasters.

Complex Humanitarian Emergencies

Complex Humanitarian Emergencies

CHEs involve an acute emergency layered over ongoing instability. Multiple scenarios can cause CHEs, like the civil wars in Syria and Yemen, the man-made political crisis in Venezuela, or the public health crisis in Congo.

Women and Girls in Disasters

Women and Girls in Disasters

Pre-existing, structural gender inequalities mean that disasters affect women and girls in different ways than they affect boys and men. The vulnerability of females increases when they are in a lower socioeconomic group.