What is the contribution of Immigrant Support Organizations to society?
As of 2017, there are 43.3 million foreign-born people in the US—of which 20.7 million are naturalized citizens, 13.1 million are lawful permanent residents, 11.1 million are unauthorized migrants, and 1.7 million only hold temporary visas. And they come from all over the world—some of them coming from as far as Liberia and Sierra Leone. To understand what pushes these people to migrate, it is just as important to know who they are before migrating. What circumstances caused the migration? What is it like to be a member of their family system and culture? As for us citizens, how do we understand the meaning given to these experiences in the pervasive context of the person’s culture? What are the legal circumstances and legal statuses of immigrants? How many of them are refugees, hired workers, undocumented immigrants, or victims of human trafficking? How did myths and real facts about the country they’re migrating to influence the expectations about what would be find here? What are their cultural expectations about roles and mandates in another country? What kind of support were extended when they left and when they arrived? Is the country they’re migrating to (and its communities) open to foreigners? To what extent does xenophobic and racist sentiment in the host country prevent acceptance of immigrants? These are but a few questions that come to mind when we think about how to understand and support people migrating to the country.
I wonder what questions may have come to your mind when it comes to immigrant support. The multiple unknowns and the inherent vulnerability that is part of the immigrant experience opens the door for both possibility and dangerous situations. These include exploitation, abuse, and many times tragic and unexpected endings. At some point or other, immigrants will experience discrimination, abuse and exploitation in different forms, and even death. This is the reason immigrant support organizations have a central role in providing legal protection, advocacy, and assistance (of sorts) to immigrants and refugees. The American Civil Liberties Union, International Rescue Committee, and Amnesty International are among the hundreds of organizations—big and small—devoted and invested in protecting, supporting, and assisting immigrants, the displaced, and refugees.
As you imagine, understanding the immigration process is key for immigrants and, in particular, future immigrants or refugees. Organizations—with the specific mission of refugee and immigrant support—navigate convoluted legal systems, teach English as a second language, help provide access to housing, healthcare, education and jobs, and contribute to support the new comers’ adaptation and integration to the new country. This ensures the safety and well-being of families and individuals and creating the conditions and possibilities for reaching those dreams, which are usually related to basic human rights, such as being able to contribute to society and being able protect their family. Have you ever realized displacement and situations that force migration could happen to you? Tragedies do not discriminate; just think of the recent and life-changing consequences of climate change.
Immigrant organizations focus on supporting families and, naturally, immigrant mothers in caring for their families (for example, by coaching them in how to access their child’s school or a medical appointment). Because the wealth of legal and other resources these organization have, the possibility of supporting families, parents, and individuals start their endeavors in their new home country. These organizations are invaluable not only to the immigrant and refugee but also to society at large. After all, they are scaffolding the beginning of the delicate process of adaptation to the new culture (also known as acculturation). If you are truly interested to find out more about what made America great, I invite you to research on James Adams and Ellen Gates Starr and their work at the Hull House in Chicago; you may you be surprised.
You might also be interested in what happens in my book, Mommy, Tell Me, Why Did You Come Here? Check it out!
Nicholson, Michael D., and CAP Immigration Team. 2017. “The Facts on Immigration Today: 2017 Edition.” Center for American Progress, April 20. Accessed March 27, 2018. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/immigration/reports/2017/04/20/430736/facts-immigration-today-2017-edition/.
Lieber, Ron. 2017. “How You Can Help Refugees in the United States.” New York Times, February 17. Accessed December 25, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/your-money/how-to-help-refugees-in-us.html.
Hipsman, Faye, and Doris Meissner. 2013. “Immigration in the United States: New Economic, Social, Political Landscapes with Legislative Reform on the Horizon.” Migration Policy Institute, April 16. Accessed December 25, 2017. https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/immigration-united-states-new-economic-social-political-landscapes-legislative-reform.