By Matthew Harvey
The issue of immigration across the U.S.-Mexico border is controversial, complicated and fraught with partisan trip wires, as the recent government shutdown demonstrates. The reality of children dying in federal custody and the political optics of family separation and detention camps makes this undeniable. While the gravity of pessimism is understandably strong, given the circumstances, optimism can be found in a few universally agreed upon facts – diversity is a strength, a safe and secure border is essential to any sovereign nation, law enforcement matters, and immigration is a positive tenet integral to the founding of our nation. Optimism can also be found within the Border Philanthropy Partnership (BPP), a bi-national non-profit that embodies these facts to build prosperity through leadership, collaboration and philanthropy on both sides of the border.
The Border Philanthropy Partnership was founded in 2008. With membership spanning across both the United States and Mexico, BPP is uniquely positioned to build that prosperity across the Borderlands. This region is defined by ten states straddling the two countries: California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas in the United States, and Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and Tamaulipas in Mexico.
For Andy Carey, the BPP’s Executive Director since its inception, the current border crisis has placed new urgency on his team’s goals. “We have been playing an important role to help bridge the divide,” he says. His team’s most imperative task is to accurately report to the Partnership’s members and donors the real story of what is happening on the ground in the Borderlands. “We have also been a conduit, for we are a membership organization; we have 300 organizations from academia, business and corporate partners, government agencies from both sides, nonprofit organizations and foundations from both countries.”
The BPP’s response is even more appreciated today, as the Trump White House and both the outgoing and incoming Congresses are at a stalemate with no policy consensus. “We have been able to help create proposals, to create background information to help inform funders. We’ve helped to raise over $550,000 to respond to the humanitarian crisis,” Carey explains. The Partnership’s work increased earnestly in June 2018, with the family separation crisis. This fall, attention was turned towards the migrant caravan that is still affecting Baja California. The Partnership’s raised funds will surely be put to much-needed use, with no monetary support currently flowing through Washington.
Carey clarifies that The Border Philanthropy Partnership was not involved in the drafting of the USMCA deal revising NAFTA – not in an advisory role or otherwise. “That is an agreement between two federal governments,” he points out. “We do have a lot of stakeholders who are participating.” Even so, Carey is uncertain how the USMCA agreement will impact the Partnership, its work, or the environment. “There is still a lot to be determined.” High on the list of uncertain factors include Mexico’s new President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and the just-seated 116th United States Congress. Carey is encouraged by how multiple interested entities from both countries willingly collaborated and exchanged information, advocating for a deal to be made. After all, the stakes are high – now more than ever. “When you live in the Borderlands, your life is impacted by what happens on the other side of the border, no matter what it is.” For these self-described Borderlanders, “you consider yourself from both sides. You’re someone who lives and works and engages on both sides of the border every day, as though it’s like crossing from one town to the next, even though you’re crossing an international boundary.”
Ongoing political crises aside, the BPP maintains its donor base and spreads its message of understanding between the United States and Mexico. The Partnership offers a wide variety of educational and training seminars; topics include fundraising, effective harnessing of social media, and board governance. It leads cross-border tours, with destinations in seven of the ten Border States. Resources are provided to the 300 member organizations under BPP’s umbrella of influence, “that help them and their volunteers achieve their mission locally,” Carey explains. That’s quite an increase from the 18 organizations that initially joined in 2008. Among the Borderland organizations BPP assists, about 60 percent are from the United States, and 40 percent from Mexico, with these numbers subject to change. For the Partnership itself, “we have less than 100 people on an annual basis, but we’re having an impact on thousands of volunteers through our work.”
At present, one of the Partnership’s largest ongoing projects is fiscal agency. “We are legally incorporated on both sides of the border,” Carey announces proudly. BPP’s sister organization, Alianza Fronteriza de Filantropia A.C. is based in Cuidad Juarez, Chihuahua. In Mexico, its credentials are equivalent to those of a 501©3 nonprofit in the United States, which allows AFF to engage with donors and seek funding from the Mexican government. That means that the Partnership is a fiscal agent organization and can “legally bring financial resources back and forth across the border.” About a tenth of the Partnership’s members – over 30 entities – are receiving assistance across the border in the form of charitable donations and grants. It orchestrates the flow of philanthropic donations in both directions. Since 2013, BPP has helped to “facilitate over $4 million in charitable giving between the two countries,” Carey reports – and like its membership, this giving is about evenly split.
Through its important work, the Border Partnership clearly understands and demonstrates that the real Wall is intransigent attitudes. Plenty of compassion can be given from one helping hand reaching across the border.
Andy Carey is Executive Director of the U.S.-Mexico Border Philanthropy Partnership, a binational membership organization that supports a network of organizations that build prosperity through leadership, collaboration, and philanthropy in the U.S.-Mexico Border region. Previously, Andy served for 15 years at Kiwanis International leading volunteer mobilization and fund development throughout the globe. Andy received his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees from Purdue University, and completed a year of academic study at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain. Andy is an Adjunct Faculty member at the University of San Diego in the School of Leadership and Education Sciences where he teaches post graduate courses on International nonprofit management. He was named 2017-18 Adjunct Faculty of the Year by the Dean of the School of Leadership and Education Sciences.
Matthew Harvey is currently the Assistant Editor of the Philanthropy Journal, joining their dedicated staff in October 2018. He is a 2017 graduate of Davidson College, and a budding philanthropist.