New immigration is often viewed as threatening to the existing population, even when they themselves, or their ancestors, were immigrants. Such sentiments are fueled then, as they are now, by fears that these new settlers will take away resources from those already settled.
There was clearly also fear of certain cultures, as expressed by various laws passed in the late 1800s and early 1900s regarding the exclusion of immigration from certain countries such as China (NASW, 2014). While there continues to be a preference for European based immigration, immigration today is based on ensuring that US citizens can sponsor their families from abroad, and that the labor market can access needed skills from outside of the country through immigration.

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Today the anti-immigration rhetoric is concerned with immigrant use of public resources and the threat of terrorism (NASW, 2014). Immigrants and refugees have problems which go beyond even policy routes to settlement in the United States. Once they are resident, they can experience discrimination and difficulties in accessing public services and employment.

The NASW (2014) Policy Statement on Immigrants and Refugees found in the 10th edition of Social Work Speaks advocates for and supports the rights of these populations by stating the importance of social justice, the avoidance of the use of racial profiling or other discriminatory practices, the right of children not to be disadvantaged by the immigration status of their parents, all of which contributes towards fair and human US immigration policy and its implementation. Specifically human rights must come before foreign policy considerations such as ideological approaches.

Unfortunately social workers and other advocates for immigrants and refugees find themselves coming into conflict with government approaches (Ortiz, Garcia & Hernandez, 2012). Federal and state laws designed to intimidate and humiliate immigrants have been passed in states including Arizona, Alabama, South Carolina, and Utah among others (Ortiz et al., 2012). Recent orders from the nation’s highest office may create further impediments for social justice regarding immigrants and refugees.

  • NASW (National Association of Social Workers). (2014). “Immigrants and Refugees”. Social Work Speaks: National Association of Social Workers Policy Statements. NASW Press.
  • Ortiz, L., Garcia, B., & Hernandez, S. H. (2012). Why it is important for social work educators to oppose racist-based anti-immigration legislation. Journal of Social Work Education, 48(2), 197-203.