Chhandasi Pandya Patel is a program officer at the Heising-Simons Foundation, where she manages the Immigrant Rights portfolio under the Foundation’s Human Rights program. She previously worked at the Migration Policy Institute.. The Heising-Simons Foundation has been a supporter of Immigrants Rising since 2010.
How you do see supporting undocumented communities, and particularly, undocumented youth, as a human rights issue?
Our goal is to build power among affected communities and have community members be the leaders of change they want to see in the world. What better community than Dreamers?
There is a hopefulness in how undocumented young people talk about their lives and roles in the U.S. that frames the narrative around immigrants and immigration. They have a narrative of hope and promise that have brought lots of people into the fold of supporting immigrants. Their stories humanize undocumented people to those who have not always been sympathetic.
Can you share a special memory about our organization?
It was about 4 years ago when I first met Kathy Gin, Jose Arreola, Jasmine Segura, and a few other E4FC [Educators for Fair Consideration, now Immigrants Rising] staff. They were in a small office by the CalTrain station. I had just joined the Heising-Simons Foundation, had taken over the grant, and was sitting in this informal space with them. It felt safe, energetic, and collaborative. The cool dynamics of a startup. You don’t always get to feel that with an organization. It felt really special.
E4FC was an organization that was saying what kinds of services they needed. What happens out on the street and what happens day-to-day. It was always Dreamer-led and Dreamer-run. It’s very powerful. Of course people at the heart of the issue are the best to say what they need.
Why do you think our work is so important right now?
It’s a scary time, two steps forward and one set back. Given its focus on one segment of the population, how does E4FC participate in emerging conversations about how different movements show solidarity? Until there is full comprehensive immigration reform, E4FC’s role as an advocate is so necessary and needed.
What are your hopes for our organization and community?
That it continues to reinvent itself without losing hope, promise, and collaboration. It will be a test to see how E4FC thinks about its role and those broader, progressive conversations around attacks on minorities and immigrant communities.
Please continue to inspire us all and keep fighting the good fight!