Abstract: Addressing the Needs of Latinx Immigrant Children and Families Impacted By COVID-19 & Immigration Enforcement in Los Angeles, CA (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Addressing the Needs of Latinx Immigrant Children and Families Impacted By COVID-19 & Immigration Enforcement in Los Angeles, CA

Sunday, January 16, 2022
Supreme Court, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Kristina Lovato, PhD, MSW, Assistant Professor, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
Introduction/Background. Shifts in federal U.S. immigration policies over the past two decades have exacerbated fears among immigrant families. The impacts of these policy changes, which include the narrowing of the public charge rule, threats to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), asylum restrictions, and forced family separations at the U.S. / Mexico border, have been further intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nationwide, Latinx immigrants are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and are more likely to contract, become hospitalized and die from the virus. Economic, psychosocial, legal, housing, and health inequities have been magnified exposing increased vulnerabilities and subsequent risk of child welfare involvement for immigrant families. In order to better understand and support the needs of Latinx immigrant families, this study examined: 1) the social service needs of Latinx immigrant families impacted by immigration enforcement and COVID-19; and 2) the experiences of social service agencies in serving immigrant families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods. This study utilized a qualitative design. Purposive snowballing sampling strategies were utilized to recruit n=25 social service providers who serve Latinx populations across faith-based, health, mental health, legal, housing, and immigrant advocacy organizations in the Los Angeles region. Semi-structured, one-on-one telephone interviews were conducted with administrators and frontline staff regarding barriers to serving immigrants during the global pandemic and how their service needs may have changed during COVID-19. Several recruitment methods were utilized including recruitment through key informants and flyers promoted via social media platforms. Interviews with service providers were transcribed verbatim and coded thematically using Dedoose software and guided by an inductive approach to qualitative analysis. Data analysis followed the constant comparative method (Glaser & Strauss, 1999).

Findings. Participants identified three core themes surrounding the needs of Latinx immigrants impacted by immigration enforcement and COVID-19. The analysis of the data suggests that: 1) Latinx immigrants experienced high rates of economic stressors and negative mental health outcomes due to the pandemic; 2) despite experiencing fear of immigration enforcement & other systemic barriers, Latinx immigrants increased basic needs social service utilization; 3) social service agencies adapted to new demands during the regional Shelter-in-Place orders by using culturally responsive and collaborative approaches by partnering with immigrant-advocacy based agencies, mobilizing virtual-based resources, and providing bilingual online trainings/workshops to empower immigrant communities dually at risk of deportation and COVID-19.

Conclusion & Implications. The study explores how the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has exposed systemic inequities in U.S. health care and economics; disproportionately impacting Latinx immigrant communities and placing them at further risk of child welfare involvement. Practice recommendations include addressing the importance of enhancing relationships with immigrant-based centers and faith-based agencies to assist practitioners in serving more immigrant families to restore their physical, mental, and emotional well-being and prevent child welfare systems involvement. Policy recommendations are provided to encourage effective, culturally responsive innovations and adaptations to improve service provision and policy changes to best optimize the health and well-being of Latinx immigrant children and families.