The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Using Research to Promote Social Change Among Latino Communities

Saturday, January 18, 2014: 8:00 AM-9:45 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 103A Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
Cluster: Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration
Symposium Organizer:
David Becerra, PhD, Arizona State University
The United States has not yet adapted to the changing demographics and needs of the Latino population.  Latinos have higher rates of poverty and less access to quality health care and other social services (Cutler, Glaeser, & Vigdor, 2008).  Recent immigration enforcement and restrictive policies exacerbate fear and discrimination of Latinos, and attempt to further restrict access to social services.  Latino youth have greater exposure or involvement with various forms of violence (Smokowski et al., 2009).  Latina immigrants disproportionately suffer from intimate partner violence (IPV), and many migrant workers toil in harsh working conditions.  Despite these issues, Latinos use their familial and cultural strengths, as well as strong community ties to confront these challenges. 

Nevertheless, more must be done to meet the needs of Latinos in the U.S.   Social workers are obligated to promote social justice and social change for oppressed and vulnerable populations. To this end, this symposium identifies needs of vulnerable Latinos, investigates reducing Latino adolescents’ and Latinas’ risk for victimization, and promotes an understanding of Latino perceptions of public safety.  This research is critical to ensuring access to social services to promote positive social change among Latino communities.

The first paper in the symposium is a quantitative study of teen dating violence among Mexican American adolescents (n=210).  A path model indicated several risk and protective factors for teen dating violence. This paper highlights an important and understudied issue in Latino communities, and proposes strategies to target Mexican American adolescents’ beliefs around dating violence norms in order to reduce dating violence among this population.

The second paper examined the relationship between the fear of deportation and perceptions of law enforcement, and the willingness to report violent crimes among Latina immigrants (n=1,049).  Results indicated that Latinas with a greater fear of deportation reported diminished confidence in law enforcement.  Fear of deportation for an undocumented Latina, may prevent a victim of IPV from disclosing abuse to police which poses significant health and safety issues for undocumented Latinas and their children. 

Using qualitative interviews, the third paper examined issues migrant dairy workers experience as a result of new immigration policies and enforcement.  The findings revealed that migrant dairy workers felt that they were targets of discrimination, experienced increased fear, and were more hesitant to go out in public as a result of new immigration policies and immigration enforcement.

The final paper used focus groups to learn from Latino immigrant families what services they need to promote their families’ well-being within a context of anti-immigrant legislation. Service needs fell into five categories: physical health, mental health, education, information and community. Additionally, participants indicated needing assistance navigating systems of care, coping with discrimination and oppressive environments, strengthening ties among community members, and advocating for policy change.

This symposium disseminates research findings on important issues facing vulnerable Latino communities such as adolescents, women, migrant workers, and first generation families.  Symposium participants will gain deeper understanding of the issues affecting Latino communities and how research can be used to promote social justice among Latino communities.

* noted as presenting author
Latinas & Law Enforcement: The Impact of Fear of Deportation On Confidence in Law Enforcement and Willingness to Report Violent Crimes
Jill T. Messing, MSW, PhD, Arizona State University; David Becerra, PhD, Arizona State University; David K. Androff, PhD, Arizona State University
The Impact of Anti-Immigration Policies On Migrant Dairy Workers
David Becerra, PhD, Arizona State University; M. Alex Wagaman, PhD, Virginia Commonwealth University; Louise M. Quijano, PhD, MSW, Colorado State University; Jason T. Castillo, PhD, University of Utah; Lorena Valle, MSW, Arizona State University
Service Needs Among Latino Immigrant Families: Implications for Social Work Practice
Cecilia Ayón, PhD, Arizona State University; Maria A. Gurrola, PhD, New Mexico State University
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