Session: Refugee Resettlement amidst Radical Federal Policy Changes: New Approaches and Local Actors Roles in Social Work Practice with Refugees and Immigrants (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

275 Refugee Resettlement amidst Radical Federal Policy Changes: New Approaches and Local Actors Roles in Social Work Practice with Refugees and Immigrants

Sunday, January 20, 2019: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Golden Gate 5, Lobby Level (Hilton San Francisco)
Cluster: Immigrants and Refugees (I&R)
Odessa Gonzalez Benson, PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Scott Harding, PhD, University of Connecticut, Kathryn Libal, PhD, University of Connecticut, Jessica Darrow, PhD, University of Chicago and Hyojin Im, PhD, Virginia Commonwealth University
Refugee resettlement and notions of integration in the United States are in upheaval and contestation, amidst radical changes in federal refugee resettlement policy. In early 2017, a presidential executive order banned refugees from several Muslim-majority nations; later that year, the United States pulled out of negotiations for the United Nations compacts on Safe Migration and Refugees. In addition, the Trump Administration has cut annual refugee admissions targets by half. At the current rate of resettlement the United States will only admit 20,000 refugees in fiscal year 2018, few of them from the Middle East. The Administration has also sought to slash spending for social supports previously provided to refugees. Such political moves have both material and symbolic implications, signaling that the United States is closing its doors and underscoring a differentiation between American citizen and migrant “other.” These nationalist, xenophobic policies grow out of and add fuel to public anti-refugee, anti-immigrant sentiments, and in some cases have increased tensions between resettled refugees and immigrants and their U.S.-born neighbors. This socio-political context poses new challenges to service delivery and provision of resources for newcomer communities. In these tumultuous times of federal withdrawal and attack on refugees and immigrants, this roundtable will consider actions and actors at the local level. Rather than retreat, social workers, refugee rights advocates and community actors have responded with novel approaches to and new modes of contestation at local levels. This roundtable will highlight challenges and new methods of refugee service provision and action on-the-ground. The first presenter considers institutional agents, revealing how state-funded resettlement agencies are adapting to austerity and reconfiguring with new forms of resistance and service provision. The second presenter takes the perspectives of refugee-run grassroots organizations and how they provide advocacy along with case management assistance and outreach, illustrating community-based models that can yield new insights about extending the reach and scope of professionalized services. The third presenter discusses innovative approaches to mental health services that apply training components for building capacity and intersectoral partnerships with refugee communities. And the final presentation illustrates humanitarian and political engagement from citizen-volunteers, specifically via co-sponsorship as a new model for resettlement in direct response to the retreat in refugee admissions. In sum, this roundtable shares novel approaches in refugee resettlement: institutional actors, refugee-run organizations, mental health service providers, and citizen-volunteers. The four presentations will serve as starting point for fruitful conversation with roundtable participants to collectively accumulate knowledge and appreciation for the diverse range of innovative approaches and localized efforts. What new forms of engagement emerge? What nuanced conceptions of ‘integration' are envisioned? How do community actors respond to restrictionist policies and anti-refugee discourse, while also complementing and perhaps reinventing conventional modes of service provision for refugees? How can we envision and enact novel practice methods that integrate direct services with advocacy and action? Our goal is to generate specific ideas about a new line of research on transformative practice in service provision and community work with refugees and immigrants.
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