Boston College Social Work is devoted to training a next generation of social workers to best address the most pressing issues of our changing world. One of the issues that has become a focal point of the school’s strategies is immigration. We live in a global community that continues to shrink; more and more, all social workers, whether they have a specific interest in working with immigrants or not, will need to understand how increased migration defines the communities in which they serve.
This winter, Professors Westy Egmont and Maryanne Loughry brought a group of 12 MSW students to the Arizona/Mexico border for a course entitled Services to Migrants: A Border Perspective. “BC has a long, distinct history of border visits devoted to cultural immersion and service,” Egmont told the Boston College Chronicle. “But this graduate course was different: Its emphasis was on understanding the systems of national protection and migrant intervention currently in place.”
The course included two weeks of intensive on-the-ground inquiry along the Arizona/Mexico border. The group walked through the desert where hundreds of thousands of immigrants have crossed into the United States, and where many others have died; they visited detention centers where undocumented men, women and children are locked up between countries; and they met face to face with migrants who described their experiences in search of a better life.
While the course placed a heavy focus on field education, students were also asked to supplement this work with significant reading, and then engage their classmates in informed conversations on immigration in America. A major goal for the course, explained Egmont, was to begin to help students develop the necessary tools to promote social changes and policy interventions that could lead to establishing a more just system of immigration. President Obama’s recent Executive Order on immigration has only further enhanced the role that social workers will need to play in order to best integrate undocumented persons into American life. The skills will be critical to their success.
“My hope for this unique group,” said Egmont, “is that many of them will go forward in possession of this knowledge, in pursuit of improved policies and more humane practice.”
We encourage you to find out more about the course by reading the BC Chronicle article, and watch a recent appearance by Egmont on CNN, where he discussed President Obama’s Executive Order on immigration.
You can also learn more about the work being done at Boston College on immigrant integration, by visiting the website of The Immigrant Integration Lab (IIL), an applied research lab exploring the intersection of social work, social policy, and immigrant inclusion. Professor Egmont leads the lab team.
Thank you to Luzelly Frias for providing the course photos.