Editor’s note: For more than 70 years, the Levi Strauss Foundation (LSF) has embraced the energy and events of our time by supporting community partners who embody Levi Strauss & Co.’s values — originality, empathy, integrity and courage — and are driving social change in communities around the globe. Today, the foundation’s work is grounded in four key areas: reproductive justice, worker rights and well-being, immigrant rights and democracy. Over the next several weeks, Unzipped will publish notes from conversations with LSF team members working on each of these issue areas.
We’re starting today with immigration, since LS&Co. was in fact founded by an immigrant more than 170 years ago. Below, Carolline Kim, LSF’s program manager for immigrant rights, shares the foundation’s outlook on immigration and highlights some specific grantees.
LSF has long been committed to supporting organizations working toward equitable and humane immigration systems, challenging anti-immigrant narratives and rhetoric that target an already vulnerable population.
As a result, LSF has provided $5.8 million in grant support since 2016 to organizations advancing immigrants’ rights. The foundation is also partnering with organizations that give power and voice to immigrant communities, especially those who face persecution and have the least access to legal protections and resources. This includes undocumented immigrants, asylum seekers and Black and LGBTQIA+ migrants.
Here are two examples of the organizations we’re working with on this issue.
The first is Define American, an organization that looks to expand immigrant visibility, achieve policy change and humanize the conversations about immigrants. They approach this challenge in a unique way: with storytelling.
Define American works closely with filmmakers, writers, studio networks, social media influencers and other creatives to create accurate and nuanced immigrant narratives throughout media to ensure that immigrants are portrayed as their whole selves. For example, they consulted on “National Treasure,” a Disney+ streaming series that featured the first Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient as a main character in televised history.
To date, Define American has consulted on over 100 film and television projects across 23 networks and streaming platforms — including HBO, NBC, Netflix, Comedy Central, ABC, Participant Films and Amazon Studios. In 2019, Define American was named on Fast Company’s “World’s Most Innovative Company” list.
Border Butterflies Project
The second is Border Butterflies Project, an organization that addresses the critical needs of LGBTQIA+ migrants throughout the asylum process at the U.S.-Mexico border.
U.S. asylum policies have become more restrictive over the last decade, and many migrants are forced to wait longer in detention. LGBTQIA+ migrants often face additional risks to their safety as many must identify as part of a sexual or gender minority to seek asylum. They are also often fleeing persecution and violence in their home countries due to discrimination based on sexual orientation and identity.
Border Butterflies Project is the first and largest coordinated response between LGBTQIA+, immigrant rights and humanitarian aid organizations offering basic resources like food, housing and legal support on both sides of the U.S. southern border. The organization uses the knowledge gathered from its direct services work to advance immigration policies to be more inclusive, culturally competent and equitable for LGBTQIA+ migrants.
An Embodiment of Our Time
As Bob Haas, LS&Co.’s chairman emeritus and descendant of our founder Levi Strauss, once said, LSF is “the embodiment of the energy and the events of our time.” Immigration is a key event and issue of our time, and we will continue championing the cause of immigrant rights through our work.
To learn more, visit the Levi Strauss Foundation page on our website.
The Levi Strauss Foundation outfits movements and leaders fighting for a more just and abundant world working in the areas of democracy, reproductive justice, immigrant rights and worker rights and well-being.