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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Out of the Shadow of the State: Immigrant Nonprofits as Self-Motivated Political Actors in Urban Politics

  • Author(s): de Graauw, Els
  • et al.

I document and analyze the political presence in local politics of 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations catering to immigrants and refugees in San Francisco, California. Contrary to much of the nonprofit literature rationalizing the political apathy and quietude of 501(c)(3) nonprofits, my qualitative data from fieldwork conducted in 2005 and 2006 reveals that immigrant nonprofits have a broad understanding of what constitutes “politics” and are politically active in both the local policymaking and electoral processes. My data further shows that immigrant nonprofits function as multi-dimensional advocates engaged in legislative, administrative, and judicial advocacy at the local level. While immigrant nonprofits have a visible political presence within all three branches of local government, I argue that they are unique in the degree to which they engage in administrative advocacy targeted at the city’s bureaucratic agencies.

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