Message from Fred Ali, President & C.E.O.: A Heartfelt Farewell to our Senior Vice President, Belen Vargas

It is with deep gratitude for her many years of service and well-wishes for the future that I announce the departure of our senior vice president, Belen Vargas. Belen will leave the Weingart Foundation in late September to join California State University, Los Angeles as associate vice president for operations and chief mission officer.

I hired Belen in 2000 as our very first program associate and quickly realized that she had the background and skill to lead the development of a new program team and approach at the Foundation. She was soon promoted to program officer and rose through the ranks of management and leadership. In 2017, Belen assumed the role of senior vice president.

During her tenure, Belen built a strong program staff, hiring people directly from the nonprofit sector with a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. She led the development of many important programs and initiatives—including our unrestricted funding program and the rollout of our commitment to equity. Belen also directed our Developmental Disability Initiative, as well as the Foundation’s communications program. She built partnerships with nonprofits, funder colleagues and government, spearheading our work with the Southeast Los Angeles Collaborative and the Youth Organizing Capacity Building Initiative. Over the years, Belen helped to guide and mentor many of our staff members, with an intentional focus on the development of a strong team of women of color. She also was the driving force behind the development of our collaborative, grantee-focused culture.

Belen is driven by her values and her passion for expanding opportunity. I also know that her commitment to the mission of educational equity and to her alma mater, Cal State LA, is deeply personal. While the Board and staff of the Foundation will miss Belen greatly, we know that she will be an incredible asset to the community in her new role.

We thank Belen for these past 19 years of mission-driven commitment and leadership, and we wish her all the best.

Fred Ali
President & C.E.O.

Message from Fred Ali, President & C.E.O.: New Immigration Proposal Harms Children and Families

A new proposal by the administration to drastically limit legal immigration could hurt millions of children and families across the country. Of all the recent cruel and unnecessary policies on immigration, this one stands out.

In this pending rule change, a person applying for a green card or visa could be denied if they access any one of a range of safety-net programs, including food, health care programs and housing assistance. Families would have to weigh the need to provide for their children against their desire for a permanent future in the United States.

The grave likelihood is that under this new rule, people will be afraid to access critical services. Hunger, illness, child poverty and homelessness will increase, and educational outcomes will suffer. It will have lasting negative consequences for families as well as for the economy.

California will be especially impacted. We are home to over 10 million immigrants—more than any other state. The proposed changes undermine California’s bipartisan efforts to integrate immigrant communities and ensure they have full access to civic and economic opportunities.

We know that immigrants are an integral part of what makes us strong. Immigrants contribute 32 percent, or $715 billion, to California’s gross domestic product, according to a report from the California Immigrant Policy Center and the USC Center on Immigrant Integration. When immigrants are fully included, we all benefit.

It is important to note that as of today no changes have been made to this policy. The federal Office of Management and Budget is currently taking public comments on the proposed change, and advocates are fighting back.

A Call to Action

At the Weingart Foundation, we are committed to strengthening our nonprofit partners as they respond to critical community needs and threats to basic human rights. We encourage our partners in the nonprofit sector to:

  1. Inform your constituents with accurate and accessible information
  2. Document the impact of this proposed rule by sharing stories and statistics about people who may be avoiding needed services because of fears related to public charge or immigration enforcement
  3. Consider submitting a public comment to the federal government about how the proposed rules would affect your organization and the communities you serve

For more information and to get involved, please contact the California Immigrant Policy Center. Also, here is a link to a recent op-ed on this issue in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, authored by Antonia Hernández, Dr. Robert K. Ross and myself.

The administration’s proposal will hurt the health and well-being of communities. It is also a radical reshaping of the national immigration system to exclude millions of working-class families of color. We must respond by standing up for a future of inclusion, diversity and opportunity for all.

Fred Ali
President & C.E.O.