Immigration Detention and Social Workers: Developing a Role Alongside Faith-Based Organizations
Methods: Mixed methodology was employed, including participant observation and in-depth interviews. Twenty participants were interviewed, including staff members and volunteers with faith-based organizations as well as former detainees. Participants were recruited through word-of-mouth and email solicitation, and through use of snowball sampling. Interviews took place in person and by telephone. Conventional content analysis procedures were used to analyze interviews and to organize the data into themes (Hsieh & Shannon, 2005). Findings are grounded through the inclusion of direct quotations from participants and in order to be representative, responses that represent diverse viewpoints and activity are reported. The accuracy of the data has been tested through member checking and peer support and debriefing.
Results: Data analysis pointed to the following key findings:
- FBOs are playing a significant and extensive role in relieving the suffering experienced by detainees and their families. A typology of this support can be constructed using a grid with two axes – direct and indirect support; and pastoral, advocacy and community-building initiatives
- Faith is very important to many detainees, both practically and psycho-spiritually
- The work is largely understood by those involved as to do with “making connections”
- Social workers currently do little work with immigration detainees due to exclusionary systemic structures
- Social workers could and should be playing a variety of crucial roles, including through case management, counseling and advocacy
Implications: These results will be of immediate use to social work practitioners seeking to assist immigration detainees, in that the work of faith-based organizations points to ideas, avenues and models for social work engagement. The authors will make specific concrete suggestions as to how social workers could start working to support detainees. The findings also reveal the crucial importance of undertaking a more extensive funded study that would have implications for social work education and policy. This study thus directly and indirectly hopes to enact social change with and for a marginalized population.