Jo Ann Intili and Ed Kissam are co-trustees of the WKF Giving Fund, which has focused on organizations committed to social justice, particularly within immigration. They have supported Immigrants Rising since 2009.
How did you become connected to our organization?
We heard about E4FC [Educators for Fair Consideration, now known as Immigrants Rising] in 2009, when we were looking for organizations that were supporting undocumented youth access to higher education. We went to a conference that Kathy Gin had organized and were impressed.
E4FC is unique as an organization, both in its personal approach to working with its constituents and funders, and in the integrity and frugality with which it uses the funds it has. E4FC is targeted, thoughtful, innovative and effective, humane, and thought-provoking in its approach to supporting undocumented youth.I can’t pile enough adjectives into a sentence to express my admiration and appreciation.
How has being involved here influenced your understanding of undocumented immigrants?
E4FC has been very influential in the way we have conceptualized our work in support of undocumented immigrants, and have gone forward with it. At that first conference we learned more about the emotional and psychological demands on undocumented immigrants as well as how systems operated against them to stymie their development as youth, and waste their potential.
Through our work with Kathy and E4FC on the Pre-Health Dreamers program, we were able to move out of our more traditional goals-and-objectives comfort zone to support a more fluid approach to the issues PhD was tackling. We learned a lot from Kathy’s calm, disciplined mentoring of the PhD youth activists—her elegantly balanced approach of encouraging their personal style and decisions while, at the same time, providing tough-minded critique and guidance when needed.
What’s most important for our organization as the immigrant rights movement moves forward?
With the turn of most funders to addressing needed rapid response for legal defense purposes, there is danger that the individual youth again– and even more so perhaps– are getting lost, battered, and psychologically abused. A richer menu of services than just legal defense is necessary. It is imperative that undocumented youth do not give up their dreams, do not forfeit their lives and their loves.
E4FC, with its public voice and private work, has really seen what is necessary to do to support these youth and can act as a watchdog to report what is happening as well as be a support and troubleshooter. We think at this point E4FC’s work is even more needed, as undocumented youth are having to advise their parents and wind their way through a variety of newly thorny obstacles to moving forward in their careers and lives.