One enduring consequence of such problematic constructions of immigrants is social work interventions that are “designed to educate, improve, and adjust immigrants to American ways of life” (Park & Kemp, 2006, p. 708). While it is important to help immigrants successfully adjust to their new environment, interventions that focus exclusively on individual adjustment fail to consider power relations and social and historical contexts, thus leaving little possibility of understanding the dialectical relationship between the person and environment (Sakamoto, 2007). Also, an exclusive focus on individual adaptation to the environment undermines social workers' ability to help immigrant clients imagine a variety of creative and flexible strategies to negotiate their complex environments (Kang, 2010a).
The first panelist presents immigrant cultural citizenship as a conceptual frame to apply postcolonial theories to social work practice with immigrants, illustrated by a case study. The author critiques marginalizing discourses that often reduce the immigrant experience to acculturation. Through a case study analysis, she illustrates multi-level (micro/mezzo/macro) interventions that helped an Asian elderly widow with depression to claim social and cultural citizenship, construct new meanings and a sense of identity and healing.
The second paper explores how socio-cultural power dynamics are constructed and re-produced in clinical encounters. This study involves conversational analysis of clinical sessions between self-identified white female therapists and clients who are racialized immigrants in Canada. The authors explore the ways in which whiteness, power, and racism manifest through clinician's efforts to direct client's talk away from 'cultural dialogues' to more 'clinical' content.
The third paper examines the phenomenon in Canada whereby the lack of “Canadian (work) experience” is constructed as a barrier to immigrant employment. A constructivist grounded theory analysis is contrasted to existing theories, and corroborates the utility of Canadian experience as a prerequisite for immigrants' gainful employment. Newcomers to the job and the country learn implicit rules through “legitimate peripheral participation” (e.g., internships, mentoring) on the way to become part of “community of practice” where sense making takes place. Government-funded immigrant employment services attempt to facilitate this process but rarely challenge the problematic requirement of Canadian experience itself.