Nonprofits Helping Illegal Immigrants Took $291 Million From Taxpayers
by Ethan Barton
Taxpayers funded eight nonprofits that serve, protect or advocate for illegal immigrants with more than $291 million between 2012 to 2016, according to an analysis of federal spending data and tax documents by the Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group.
The eight groups — including at least one that endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016 — provide a variety of support to illegal aliens, ranging from legal and social services to political advocacy.
Ninety-four percent of the public funds — or, nearly $274 million — came from the federal government, according to data obtained from USAspending.gov and 990 tax forms.
The $291 million total in public funding, however, is almost certainly an underestimate, since the respective 990s of each implicated nonprofit for all five years were not always available. Additionally, those groups only represent a small sample of publicly-funded pro-illegal immigrant nonprofits.
“At least 684 nonprofits nationwide provide some form of legal aid to immigrants,” a 2013 Urban Institute study said. More than half of these had budgets bigger than $1 million, but a “more detailed breakdown is necessary to reveal how much support comes from … government agencies.”
The Urban Institute study also claimed there were too few charities at the time to serve the growing “unauthorized population” and that additional taxpayer-funded support was necessary. The study estimated that California’s 111 nonprofits then providing legal aid to immigrants could serve as many as 22,973 illegal immigrants each.
The Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) received the most in government grants of the eight charities TheDCNF analyzed, raking in nearly $255 million — or 87 percent — of the total funding, data shows. A large portion of that money was awarded to assist refugees.
And government grants accounted for 92 percent of the LIRS budget between 2013 and 2015.
LIRS wants to ensure “all migrants and refugees are protected, embraced and empowered,” and seeks to end detention centers, according to its website. Instead, the group advocates for “community-based alternatives to immigration detention” to house “individuals as they await a final decision on their immigration status.”
The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) was the second most publicly-funded charity among the eight analyzed nonprofits, receiving more than $17 million between 2013 and 2015, data shows. Government grants accounted for only a small portion of its revenue.
The group’s 2012 and 2016 990s were unavailable, but NCLR received an average of more than $5 million each year. La Raza’s political action committee endorsed Clinton for president during the 2016 campaign. It was the group’s first-ever presidential candidate endorsement.
La Raza’s president and CEO Janet Murguia is an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump’s immigration enforcement strategies, comparing his promise to deport illegal immigrants to both the African slave trade and the predominantly Japanese internment camps established in the U.S. following Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
Americans For Immigrant Justice received nearly $8 million in government grants between 2012 and 2014 (its 2015 and 2016 990s were unavailable) — the third largest amount among the eight charities reviewed by TheDCNF. Public money accounted for nearly 91 percent of its total revenue, and it annually received $2.6 million on average.
The nonprofit legal defense fund has represented detained illegal immigrants, and cases often involve the conditions of the facilities.
“I dont have our financials in front of me, but those numbers are not direct government funding,” Americans for Immigrant Justice Deputy Director Michelle Ortiz told TheDCNF in an email. TheDCNF pulled the numbers from a line in the group’s 990 labeled: “government grants (contributions).” Ortiz did not respond further after TheDCNF inquired about the 990 data.
Below are the five remaining publicly-funded nonprofits TheDCNF analyzed.
TheDCNF was highly selective when deciding which charities it would sample. Ultimately, only groups with a national scope and focus that overtly assisted illegal immigrants and dealt exclusively in immigration matters were included.
Nonprofits operating at local or state levels, those more covert about dealings with illegal immigrants, and groups that handle a variety of issues in addition to immigration were excluded.
One group awarded significant public funding that TheDCNF excluded was the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Migration and Refugee Services, since its funding is lumped together with other services it provides.
The Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc. (CLINIC) was the only nonprofit analyzed that responded to requests for comment, besides Americans for Immigrant Justice.
CLINIC initiated its “text4refugees” project with a federal grant of $525,000. Anonymous subscribers receive up to two texts per month from CLINIC about the citizenship application process.
The group also used a $550,000 federal grant to provide training for its affiliates regarding legal protection for female immigrants who faced domestic violence and sexual assault and “are often fearful to access legal services or law enforcement because of their legal status,” according to information provided by CLINIC spokeswoman Pat Zapor.
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