The Society for the
Study of Social Issues

All Immigration is Local: Receiving Communities and their Role in Successful Immigration Integration

This new report from the Center for American Progress reviews findings of the Receiving Communities Initiative that was convened in December 2010, and of which SPSSI member, Victoria Esses, University of Western Ontario, was a part. It aims to establish the best models for creating successful immigration integration including a network affiliate model, a central organization overseeing local and state affiliates, a national chapters system, and a national coordinating conference. The report finds that there is an imbalance in current immigration policy towards the immigrants themselves. Though essential this often overlooks the fact that the receiving communities themselves are a critical part of the dynamic. There are four key strategies for addressing this issue.

1. Encouraging community leadership
2. Fostering contact
3. Building partnerships
4. Reframing the issues

Groups that are active in receiving community projects must develop a culture of evaluation in which program assessment is a norm rather than an exception.

There has been a rapod rise of immigration over the last few decades. The most recent influx of immigrants between 1990 and 2009 were in states that had never previously been popular destinations, North Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, Nevada, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Nebraska. By 2009 almost 1 in 4 children born in the U.S. were had at least one parent who was an immigrant. Even though there is broad research consensus on the positive impact of immigration, local communities can still develop negative attitudes especially during periods of adverse economic conditions.

Policy recommendations:
In the absence of full-scale national immigration reform, the federal government could look at facilitating the transition of immigrants and their host communities. Currently only $19.7 million of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ budget goes toward the stated goal to “support immigrant integration and participation in American civic culture.” At a local and state level there should be more overt policy in service agreements to focus on the receiving community side of immigrant integration. Non governmental organizations can reorient themselves to the challenge of delivering services to the receiving communities in order to improve the impact of their work.

Alex Ingrams
SPSSI Policy Coordinator

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Research that produces nothing but books will not suffice.
                                                                                                                    - Kurt Lewin