If you haven’t heard already, June is Immigrant Heritage Month and June 20th is World Refugee Day. Due to the timing of this blog post, I decided to reflect on the importance of the immigrant population.
Why should the immigrant population be important for socials workers in the Greater Houston Area and in Texas?
Houston has their own World Refugee Day, which shows the importance that immigrants have for Houston. Another cool fact is that 1 in 4 residents of Harris County are foreign-born (Rhor 2015), and 1 out of 6 Texans is an immigrant (U.S. Census Bureau). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the immigrant population in Houston represents close to 1/3 of the entire immigrant population in Texas. Nearly 2.4 million children or 1/3 of children in Texas, live with one or more parents who is an immigrant, and half of these children live with at least one parent who is not a U.S. citizen (Annie E. Casey Foundation). Additionally, it is estimated that 834,000 children in the state live with one or more undocumented parents (Migration Policy Institute 2016). If you are planning to go to the GCSW, you will probably encounter immigrant clients at your field placements. If you are planning to stay in the surrounding area of Houston or even in the state, your clients would most likely be immigrants.
The immigrant population of Texas has the purchasing power of nearly $100 billion (Center for Public Policy Priorities 2017). $100 billion is a big deal for Texas because it is almost half of the state biannual budget for 2018-2019 fiscal year, which is $216.8 billion (Garrett 2017). Part of the $216.8 billion budget is going to spend $500 million in CPS, $196 million in mental health services, $40.2 million for higher education institutions, and among other things (Garrett 2017). The sales taxes and other taxes that immigrants pay for fund the state’s agencies and services. If you’re planning to work in social services within the state government or work for a non-profit that gets grants from the state government, your job could be indirectly sponsored by taxpayer money from immigrants.
So, now what?
We are in a time where nationalism is on the rise with the recent change of federal administration. This is a time where fear of “the other” can be extreme and lead to severe consequences such as, discrimination, implicit biases, and racial hate crimes. Immigrants have been targeted and have been dehumanized from the media and elected leaders. People have forgotten how to empathize with one another. This is where social workers can play a role in navigating difficult conversations and guide people to humanize the immigrant population. You can share stories of the immigrant population (without mentioning the actual names of your clients to keep confidentiality) and the impact they have in our society because you are more than likely going to hear a migration story from a client at your field placement or a classmate. The goal is not to change someone’s political opinion but instead to teach them how to love someone who is completely different from themselves.
(2017). Immigrants Drive the Texas Economy. Center for Public Policy Priorities. Retrieved from http://forabettertexas.org/images/EO_2017_ImmigrantsDrive_Houston_FactSheet.pdf
Capps, R., et al. (2016). A profile of U.S. children with unauthorized immigrant parents. Retrieved from http://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/profile-us-children-unauthorized-immigrant-parents
Children in immigrant families: Children in immigrant families in which residents parents are not U.S. citizens. Parents who are not U.S. citizens include those with and without legal authorization.The Annie E. Casey Foundation, KIDS COUNT Data Center. http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/133-children-in-immigrant-families-in-which-resident-parents-are-not-us-citizens?loc=45&loct=2#detailed/2/45/false/869,36,868,867,133/any/480,481
Garrett, R. (2017). Lawmakers finalize budget deal that leaves $11 bill unspent, shores up CPS, mental health, border security. Retrieved from https://www.dallasnews.com/news/texas-legislature/2017/05/26/lawmakers-finalize-budget-deal-leaves-11-billion-unspent-shores-cps-mental-health-border-security
Rhor, M. (2015). Immigrants from around the world are transforming Houston. Houston Chronicle. Retrieved from http://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/themillion/article/How-diversity-culture-demographics-of-Houston-6117301.php
U.S. Census Bureau, 2010-2014 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Table S0501.
Picture courtesy of: http://hola-arkansas.com/immigrant-heritage-month-celebrating-immigrants/