Abstract: Inclusive Approaches to Serving Immigrant Families in a U.S. Border Community: A Qualitative Study (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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707P Inclusive Approaches to Serving Immigrant Families in a U.S. Border Community: A Qualitative Study

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Anayeli Lopez, PhD, Assistant Professor, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM
Megan Finno-Velasquez, PhD, LMSW, Associate Professor, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces
Sophia Sepp, MSW, MPH, Program Manager, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM
Background and Purpose: In recent years, federal immigration and public benefits policies with implications for immigrant families in the U.S. have been extraordinarily restrictive and punitive. These policies have exacerbated a climate of fear and vulnerability for immigrant families, while also creating significant barriers to service access and eligibility for immigrant families, particularly those services that are important for child health and wellbeing. Many communities have promoted immigrant inclusive policies and service approaches by intervening against structural and systematic barriers. Yet, there is little research on how these immigrant-inclusive approaches at the community level have promoted equitable access to social services. The present study aims to advance the knowledge of immigrant families by examining the approaches utilized in a U.S./Mexico border community to address barriers to service access and promote immigrant inclusivity, given the immigration policy and border context.

Methods: This research is rooted in a community-based participatory model, relying on the input from community agency partners and community advisory group members throughout the research process. Researchers conducted 23 one-on-one semi-structured interviews with 9 local/state government officials and 14 community agency leaders and five 90-minute focus groups with 17 frontline professionals working with immigrant families in some capacity. The study utilized purposive and snowball to recruit participants. A qualitative thematic approach was utilized to analyze data from individual interviews and focus groups. A constant comparative method was employed to analyze the qualitative data.

Results: Participants described two overarching themes: 1) multiple social service needs and barriers experienced by immigrant families and 2) immigrant inclusive approaches utilized to address the social service needs and barriers. This paper details the following immigrant inclusive approaches described by participants: 1) Inclusive approaches at the community level (e.g., enacting local sanctuary policies, creating a one-stop-shop center) 2) Inclusive approaches at the community agency level (e.g., expanding service eligibility to serve everyone regardless of immigration status, providing trauma-informed services, and developing a language access plan) and the 3) Inclusive practices at the interpersonal level (e.g., conducting immigrant-focused outreach to build trust and conducting targeted referrals and case management).

Conclusions and Implications: The present study highlights the importance of using immigrant inclusive approaches at the community, agency, and interpersonal levels to intervene against systematic and structural barriers to ensure equitable access to social services for immigrant families in the U.S./Mexico border region. To be inclusive of immigrant families, communities and social service providers serving immigrant families must address barriers related to immigration status, past trauma, language, and culture, and a myriad of factors related to poverty and socioeconomic status. The approaches presented in this study can be utilized to make immigrant families feel safer accessing services by creating a welcoming and health-promoting community environment.