Human Service Organizations and Immigration Reform: Administrators' Knowledge About Immigration Policy
Methods: The study involves a survey of human services administrators in a southeastern state. Of 1,310 human services organizations in a sampling frame formed using a 2-1-1 database, 400 were randomly selected. Administrators received an e-mail invitation to participate in an online survey. The current response rate is 49 percent. The survey includes study-derived measures of organizational policy and practices, and administrator knowledge of state immigration policy. It also includes an adapted immigration attitudes scale (Park, et al., 2011). Multivariate regression models were conducted to test the study hypotheses.
Results: A two-stage hierarchical linear (OLS) regression model indicates that administrators in organizations that receive public funding are less knowledgeable about immigration policy than are administrators in organizations with only non-public funding sources. Having a social work degree is not associated with knowledge about immigration policy (failing to support hypothesis 1). Also, as attitudes toward immigrants are more favorable, administrators are more knowledgeable about immigration policy (supporting hypothesis 2). A logistic regression model indicates that organizations are more likely to adopt immigration-friendly policies when administrators hold more positive attitudes toward immigrants, but administrator knowledge is not associated with immigrant-friendly policy (failing to support hypothesis 3).
Implications: As immigration policy becomes increasingly important to the experiences of immigrant families, the policy knowledge deficits of many human service providers become more troubling (Padilla, et al., 2008). In finding an association between administrator attitudes and knowledge about state policy, and between attitudes and organizational policy, this study begins to identify pathways to strengthen human service providers’ knowledge and improve immigrant services. One pathway to greater policy knowledge may be via promoting more favorable attitudes toward immigrants which can, in turn, promote more curiosity about immigration policy and more urgency to understand it. In addition to cultural competence, social work education should more effectively teach students and alumni how to remain knowledgeable about immigration policy and its implications.