ICE Raids Threaten Immigrant Families

This month, the Obama administration began an aggressive immigration operation targeting Central American asylum seekers for detainment and deportation. On the first weekend of the New Year, at a time when many were spending time with their loved ones for the holidays, at least 121 individuals primarily from Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina were taken into custody during a series of raids that immigration advocates are condemning as cruel and unconstitutional. Advocacy groups have received numerous reports of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials breaking down doors, deceiving immigrants into letting them enter homes without warrants, and detaining children as young as four years old.

Most of the victims of these raids have been families, often women and children, and many have recent or pending asylum claims. “Our interviews revealed that these families have bona fide asylum claims, but were deprived of a meaningful opportunity to present them at their hearings in immigration court,” Katie Shepherd, managing attorney for the CARA Project, said in a press statement. “It’s beyond shameful that these families, who risked everything to seek protection in the United States, were being forcibly returned to the violence and turmoil they fled in Central America.” Despite President Obama’s executive action on DAPA, which provides deferred action status for some undocumented immigrants and will be considered at the Supreme Court later this year, the Obama administration continues to deport the greatest number of immigrants of any president in history.  Immigrant rights advocates, including several Overbrook grantees, are challenging him to stop separating families, to do better for all immigrants and to halt this round of raids.

Repatriated families who were seeking refuge from violence may face an even greater risk to their lives than when they left, as the situation in Central America has been steadily DETERIORATING since 2014. These families may return to gang threats, gender violence, and other forms of persecution. For immigrant families in cities that have not been targeted by ICE raids, the fear of being next is palpable. Cities and neighborhoods with large Latino communities across the country are reporting decreased school and work attendance as immigrants try to remain indoors. Legal organizations and allied officials are encouraging immigrants continue go about daily activities, but to know their rights as these raids continue.

Good News for the New Year!

The days are numbered for those tiny plastic beads in soaps, body washes, toothpastes, and other household products. At the end of December, President Obama signed into law the Microbead-Free Waters Act, which bans the plastic microspheres widely used as exfoliating agents starting in July 2017. The bill is great news for waterways and oceans, as well as for human health. Studies have shown that the beads are washed down household drains, pass through sewage treatment plants, and make their ways into lakes, rivers, and oceans in enormous quantities (an estimated 11 billion microbeads are released into American waterways each day). There, they absorb toxins such as pesticides and move into the food web after being consumed by fish and other marine organisms. The result is an accumulation of toxins in wildlife and fish populations, and a danger to humans when affected seafood is eaten.

The bill sailed through the House and the Senate last month with an ease that seemed unusual for environmental legislation, in part because there was little opposition from the cosmetics companies responsible for most microbeads production. The industry had been under fire from environmental activists for years over the hazards of microbeads, and most major companies were already on board to begin phasing them out. Overbrook grantee The Story of Stuff Project was one of a handful of organizations that were instrumental to placing pressure on the cosmetics industry and pushing this bill through Congress.

Following the US bill and a similar law in the Netherlands, a rapidly growing online petition was launched to enact a microbeads ban in the UK. The hope is that more countries will follow these leads and make microbeads and their environmental effects a thing of the past.

November Grants Announced!

The Foundation is pleased to announce its November 2015 grants to the following organizations.

The Human Rights Program awarded grants to 17 organizations:

Advocates for Youth

American Jewish World Service

Brennan Center

The Center for Justice and International Law


Disability Rights International

Front Line Defenders

Funders Network on Population, Reproductive Health and Rights

Groundswell Fund

National Advocates for Pregnant Women

National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum

National Economic and Social Rights Initiative

The New Press

Piper Fund & ReThink Media's Communication Collaborative Initiative

Restaurant Opportunities Center United

Third Wave Fund

United Republic

Western States Center


The Environment Program awarded grants to 21 organizations:


Alliance for Climate Education

Amazon Watch

American Sustainable Business Institute

As You Sow

Building Equity and Alignment for Impact

Catskill Mountainkeeper

Center for Story-based Strategy

EDGE Funders Alliance Just Transition Learning Collaborative

Fundación Cordillera Tropical

Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives

Grassroots Global Justice


Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda, I.A.P.

Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy

Health Care Without Harm

Move NY

Pronatura Noroeste A.C.

Sustainable Agriculture Network

Western New York Environmental Alliance

For more information on these organizations and on Overbrook's support of their work, please see the Foundation's Environment and Human Rights pages.

Congratulations to these groups on their many achievements!


Who Pays? The True Cost of Incarceration on Families

Women, particularly low-income women and women of color, bear the brunt of the emotional and financial burden when family members are incarcerated, states a September report led by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Forward Together, and Research Action Design. The report, which profiled more than 300 family members impacted by incarceration, found that families of individuals in the criminal justice system were saddled with debt from legal fees and lost income, and assumed significant emotional burdens from damages to their familial relationships, social stigma and isolation, and disrupted support systems. The majority of family members on the outside shouldering these financial and emotional costs were women, with low-income women of color suffering an especially disproportionate impact. Transgender women of color with a loved one in prison had a particular set of emotional impacts, because they were more likely to be criminalized themselves, and were therefore generally barred from visiting prisons.

The report outlines recommendations to help stabilize and support these vulnerable families. These recommendations include: restructure criminalization policies to reduce the number of people serving sentences and the length of sentences served, remove barriers for formerly incarcerated individuals to access resources like housing and employment, and increase investment and support (job training, education, employment services, etc.) for formerly incarcerated individuals and their families and communities. To read more on the coalition’s findings and recommendations, see the full report.



Overbrook Grantees take on Science Museums

Two of Overbrook’s grantees have teamed up and are making waves in the world of science and natural history education. The Natural History Museum (a new grantee of the Foundation in 2015) and launched a joint “Keep It in the Museum” campaign last week which singles out five influential science and natural history museums for their connections to fossil fuels industry through investments, endowments, or board members and donors from the fossil fuel industry. The campaign comes on the heels of an open letter written in March by the Natural History Museum and signed by nearly 150 of the world’s top scientists, which decried the link between museums and the fossil fuel industry. The letter made major news headlines around the world and helped spark a campaign to remove David Koch, one of the nation’s most avid climate change deniers, from the board of two of the country’s biggest national history museums.

The joint effort between The Natural History Museum and has already made an impact. One of its five target institutions, The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, has since announced a new plan to phase out all of its funding tied to the fossil fuel industry. Executive Director Jonathan Foley wrote in a statement released last Friday, “It seems difficult to reconcile the mission of a public science museum focused on ecology, evolution, and sustainability and the practice of investing in fossil fuels.” As of this summer, the Academy has cut all direct investments in fossil fuel companies and has begun to phase out any oil, gas, and mineral leases on lands with historic mineral rights given by donors. Additionally, the Academy has adopted a new institutional gift policy that ensures contributions are consistent with this pledge, and will begin working to untie its endowment completely from fossil fuels.

We can't wait to see what comes next from this exciting collaborative efforts. Congratulations to The Natural History Museum and on the victory!


Peru Protects Indigenous Amazon Land

The Foundation would like to congratulate Overbrook grantee Nature and Culture International and the Maijuna and Kichwa people on their recent historic victory. Last week, President Humala of Peru officially recognized the Maijuna-Kichwa Regional Conservation Area in the Amazon rainforest of northern Peru as a federally protected land. Nature and Culture International has been working tirelessly along with the indigenous Maijuna and Kichwa people and the regional Loreto government to protect the area since 2006.

In addition to being the ancestral homeland of the indigenous Maijuna and Kichwa, the conservation area is also home to nearly one million acres of incredibly biodiverse rainforest. The decree calls for the protection of the area’s natural resources as well as its indigenous inhabitants, under the supervision of the National Service of Protected National Areas by the State and with the assistance of government-trained regional personnel.

To learn more, please see Nature and Culture International’s press release on the decree.

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Minister of Environment of Peru, displaying the Supreme Decree 008-2015-MINAM. Photo Credit: SERNANP

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Minister of Environment of Peru, displaying the Supreme Decree 008-2015-MINAM. Photo Credit: SERNANP