Abstract: "We Don't Turn Away Families": Systematic Support of Immigrant Families with Young Children during and in the Aftermath of COVID-19 (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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196P "We Don't Turn Away Families": Systematic Support of Immigrant Families with Young Children during and in the Aftermath of COVID-19

Friday, January 13, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Megan Finno-Velasquez, PhD, LMSW, Associate Professor, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces
Carolina Grest, PhD, MSW, Assistant Professor, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
Anayeli Lopez, PhD, Assistant Professor, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM
Sophia Sepp, MSW, MPH, Program Manager, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM
Background and Purpose: Immigration policies at local, state, and national levels play an important role in the integration of immigrant families and their access to key community health and social services. In recent years, federal immigration policies in the U.S. have been exceedingly punitive and restrictive and in response, many state and local entities have taken action to implement policies to improve equity and access for immigrants. Given the growth of immigrant families over the last four decades, a shift to local solutions for advancing equitable access to services is needed to improve immigrant health. This paper sought to examine how the social and health needs of immigrant families have been addressed during and in the aftermath of COVID-19 and strategies that one local community has used to respond to immigrant needs along a U.S.-New Mexico border context.

Methods: This study used a community-based participatory research approach and engaged four community agency partners, who provided referrals to stakeholders and informed the research process. A total of n=23 semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with community stakeholders, including 13 community organization leaders, 5 local government representatives and 5 state government officials serving immigrant families in some capacity. The interview protocol was developed from prior literature and direct experience with immigrant populations, and with input from community partners. A constant comparative method was employed to analyze the qualitative data.

Results: Community providers and government officials described themes organized in two broad categories: 1) multiple challenges made worse by the pandemic; and 2) innovative strategies in response to the increased need for services among immigrant families. Informed by the perspectives of local leaders, this paper details the unique services access challenges experienced by immigrant families along the U.S.-Mexico border as well as the following four innovative community integration strategies (sub-themes): 1) Community organizing and empowerment; 2) Immigrant inclusivity in community agency practice; 3) Community partnerships united around immigrants; and 4) Benefits of local sanctuary policies.

Conclusions and Implications: Solutions presented illustrate local-level approaches focused on increasing the inclusion and integration of immigrant communities within an anti-immigrant federal policy context, that effectively reduced structural barriers and expanded equitable access to essential health and social services for immigrant families.