There is reason to believe that these structural disadvantages are magnified for immigrants in new destination areasâ€”places such as the American Southeast with relatively new immigrant populations. These states have some of the fastest-growing immigrant communities in the country, yet mainstream institutions that immigrants may rely on as a safety net during times of need (e.g., hospitals, schools, and law enforcement) have been relatively slow to respond to the specialized needs of immigrants, especially those who are LEP, undocumented, and/or uninsured. These factors have placed the burden of outreach and service delivery squarely on the shoulders of immigrant-serving organizations in this region that were already under-resourced and often, at full capacity. Without public health crisis planning, tasks such as coordinating volunteers, resources, and supplies were often engineered on the fly. Many organizations relied on existing outreach and service delivery strategies which, even before the pandemic, had limited success in immigrant communities. As we learned following Hurricane Katrina, this approach can mean that socially vulnerable groups such as immigrants are outside the reach of extant formal relief efforts. This confluence of factorsâ€”the social vulnerability of immigrants, the lack of a social safety net, and an under-resourced non-profit sectorâ€”raise questions about how local immigrant-serving organizations have strategically identified and addressed the needs of immigrants, particularly in new immigrant settlement states.
This symposium explores how local organizations and providers responded to the needs of immigrant communities during the pandemic. Using a variety of methods, including survey and in-depth interviews, these papers identify the obstacles providers encountered to meeting the needs of immigrants and the mental health toll on providers. Each of them focuses on a different state in the Southeast. Together they begin to reveal the wider landscape of social service provision in place for immigrant communities across this regionâ€”including gaps and (at times surprising) signs of capacity.