IIL Banner 2013

Issue 1.3 | May-August 
In this Issue:
Labor Market Mobility

 Immigrant Mobility 
 Agency Highlight 
 Current Research 
 Recent Publications 


Op-Ed: Two Muslim Brothers Who Took the Assimilation Path

Kenan Trebincevic
April 26, 2013 
Wall Street Journal
Tech Companies Driving the Lobbying on Immigration
Fredreka Schouten and Alan Gomez
April 29, 2013
USA Today
Supporting Immigrant students in MA: Obstacles & Opportunities in Practice, Policy & Research
Friday, May 10, 2013
Boston College
**Date Change**
National Immigrant Integration Conference
Miami, November 18th-19th, 2013
Hosted by National Partnership for New Americans, the Florida Immigrant Coalition & the Knight Foundation



Welcome to the IIL Commentary!  We hope to connect practitioners and researchers with the contribution of academics working across multiple disciplines - our focus being the role social policy and social work can play in promoting the full integration of the foreign born.


The Research and Books columns serve as a bulletin board, posting recent work from a wide variety of submissions and sources meant to encourage scholarship, use of evidence-based research and create a vibrant national place for dialogue.


At the height of the Industrial Revolution, the mills of Merrimac Valley, shoe shops of Lynn and countless factory towns across the industrial north absorbed new labor from abroad and built systems to absorb and educate these new laborers. The American Woolen Mill president, William Wood, set up classes after WWI for their immigrant workforce to learn about America with English and civics. Italians side by side with Poles went to class and developed inter group relations as well as critical workplace skills for advancement.


Jump forward and we have a different reality today. We still have a constant flow of immigrants but foreign born labor is arriving in 22 states and going to work in vastly different settings. Small businesses are 99.7% of US businesses and employ half the non-agricultural workers! Today's immigrant goes to housecleaning or to a medical office, often with fewer than 20 employees and there is no benefits coordinator arranging English classes.  Given the shift size at a hamburger joint or a dental office, the immigrant's needs are not just secondary but totally beyond the pale; the immigrants not already prepared to be in that workplace are excluded from getting started. In Heartland farm towns or in newly impacted states, few provisions even exist and in the historic Gateway cities, employers look to government to prepare the workforce, even while asking for smaller government and fewer services.


If 75% of new jobs are with small business and these employers want a ready workforce, it is time for an employer revolution, building up the new Americans to be the workers of tomorrow.


Where does the newcomer get socialized, integrated, taught English, gain marketplace information and have opportunity for advancement?  If you read My Beloved World by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, you read about the huge cultural struggle of a Bronx-born Latina and see the challenges in one humorous and one painful anecdote after another.   Jhumpa Lahiri's novels detail domestic life and make evident the distance immigrants must travel within their place of work. 


Warren St. John gives us a contemporary story of integration in

Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference but where is the workplace story?  Where is the mill owner of today where business is committed to the future employees, let alone local patrons, who need human capital, education and a chance to move up the rungs from entry job to sustainable livelihoods?  We depend on vocational training programs, community colleges and non-profit providers who need partnerships with small business America and large business employers. And even when English is being taught, when jobs are offered, the need to gather, support, orient, foster understanding and increase the skills for advancement is the work of employers themselves. There are glimmers of promise seen when McDonald's connects to a community college to train operators and offer employees on-line ESL but the models are few and the need huge. A small a gesture, even a leader's welcome and a department gathering in which a person is invited to say hello breaks the ice and begins the process. 


The tragic events of Boston pointed out the need, yet again, for immigrant integration. The older of the Chechen brothers was not working and had written recently, "I don't have a single American friend, I don't understand them." We cannot avoid every threat but we can all understand that isolation is a deleterious environment for mental health, let alone social cohesion.


From Washington apple pickers to Maryland seafood packers, from construction workers to math teachers, America accepts help from abroad. But once the immigrant is hired, is there a consciousness of the journey still to be taken from stranger to neighbor, from struggle to success?


Westy Egmont, Director 

BCGSSW Immigrant Integration Lab
PS.  If those around you are still stuck on immigrants VS. American business, direct them to and the multitude of business voices that are very pro-immigrant.


Baltimore Alliance for Careers in Healthcare (BAHC)


For 8 years, The Baltimore Alliance for Careers in Healthcare (BAHC) has utilized basic career coaching to advance the lives of hundreds of local employees across an industry that has significant opportunities at every level of employment.  Perhaps the scale of healthcare differentiates its employment characteristics but like all sectors of the economy, the new workers are significantly foreign born and the barriers to advancement appear in a myriad of sizes and shapes. From the issues of limited English to the lack of career advancement understanding, from high credentials overseas to non-transferable credentials here, immigrants in the field of healthcare are a ready future workforce for advancement...with some help.


BAHC is not a big operation but its model is successful and of a type that is often used within hospitals like Ft. Collins Colorado or Boston's Children's Hospital.  In Philadelphia the support comes from a collaborative effort of the union and management.  The essence is not how these efforts are instigated but replicating the power to train, retain and promote employees.  An investment in the workers is returned many times over and is essential to an industry that has seen the difficulty of finding enough nurses and technical staff when the economy is strong and knows that producing its own leadership makes sense.


Immigrant integration is fostered in the workplace. Here someone knows you by name and extends the human decency of caring, listening, and encouraging and helping the newcomer navigate the unfamiliar settings.


When Alma began, an immigrant mother, she had only completed high school education in the Balkans but within two years of career coaching, being given a roadmap of how to get training, she is enrolled in a nursing program and will soon more than double her income; she will also meet a critical employment need.  Her long term goal is to be a specialist who has seen and done every level of work in the neo-natal unit where she is still employed while in school. "My life was saved as a refugee. Now I want to help save the lives of the premature babies in our care."  Read more about BAHC > >  

Vocational Psychology and Assessment with immigrants in the United States: Future Directions for Training, Research and Practice 


Lisa Y. Flores, Catherine Hsieh, Hung Chiao

Journal of Career Assessment, Volume 19, Issue 3 (August 2011) 

Vocational Psychology research has largely ignored U.S. immigrants work experience. The authors in this article highlight the need to develop new career assessments that include cultural strengths, work beliefs and decision-making processes that may be functional in a different culture for the future of vocational research. Additionally they give suggestions for career counselors working with immigrants. It isrecommend when assessing clients' current situation in the U.S. to also gather information about clients' life in their home countries. This will increase the understanding of a client's aspirations, disappointments, and sense of displacement. Career counselors are encouraged to reflect on their own cultural norms and practices to help an immigrant become more knowledgeable about the U.S. workplace. Read more here > >


Immigration and Informal Labor  

Sarah Bohn, Emily Greene Owens
Industrial Relations, Volume 51, Issue 4(October 2012)

In this article the authors measure "informal economic activity" by developing state-level proxies for informal employment using differences between measures of self-reported employment and officially sanctioned employment. The results found that immigration is positively related to their measure of informal construction work, but only in states where construction wages were low and workers were not unionized. Integration into the formal labor market is an important facet of overall immigrant assimilation. The author's new measures of informal labor may be of interest to future researchers. Read more here > > 


Wage and Mobility Effects of Legalization: Evidence from the New Immigrant Survey

Magnus Lofstrom, Laura Hill, Joseph Hayes

Journal of Regional Science, Volume 53, Issue 1 (February 2013)

An important factor for consideration is the effect that legalization will have on the employment outcomes of the undocumented. Using data from the New Immigrant Survey (NIS) the authors find that improvements in employment outcomes are limited, especially in the short run.Their findings are specifically attributable to skill level; Highly skilled immigrants, regardless of how they arrive to the U.S. exhibit slightly better occupational improvements after gaining legal status than low-skilled workers. The authors note that unauthorized workers may increasingly be using false documentation to obtain employment, employers therefor do not differentiate pay to low-skilled laborers. Read more here > > 

English Language Learning, Job Skills Development, and Welfare-to-Work Services in immigrant Communities

Julian Chun-Chung Chow, Catherine M. Vu

Social Development Issues (September 2012)

This study examines Vocational ESL programs that can assist English-language learners participating in welfare-to-work programs in obtaining language proficiency and job skills. The analysis of CALworks, California's welfare program, finds that a lack of referrals from county agencies and structural discrepancies between VESL programs resulted in few welfare recipients participating in VESL programs. The authors conclude with recommendations for the use of a job coach in conjunction with structural changes. Job coaches can provide help with job skill training, on-site consultation, job placement, career development and advice. 

Read more here > >




Immigrants in a Changing Labor Market 

Fix, M., Papademetriou, D., & Sumption, M., (Eds) (2013): MPI

The MPI team brings together 11 experts to assess the role of immigration in the US labor market.  Providing  detailed policy recommendations the authors grapple with economic competitiveness, market impact and speak to current immigration reform from the perspective of labor needs and the impact on the economy.


Marginal Workers: How Legal Fault Lines Divide Workers and Leave Them without Protection 

Gardica, R. (2012): New York University Press

"Ruben Garcia's Marginal Workers moves the bar on workers' rights advocacy. This important, synthesizing work should reach legal, policy, and activist communities throughout the United States. Garcia illuminates the interstices of a statutory and regulatory system meant to protect employees, but which leaves millions of low-wage workers exposed to workplace abuse. He does not rest with analyzing the problem; he offers ideas and proposals for relaunching workers' rights from a platform of first principles, not transient policy preferences."

-Lance Compa, Cornell University


Diaspora and Class Consciousness: Chinese Immigrant Workers in Multiracial Chicago 

Lan, S. (2012): Routledge

"Shanshan Lan's Diaspora and Class Consciousness is a vivid portrait of Chinese American Chicagoland. She is clever not to remain within the confines of the Chinese American community, telling the story of its emergence and consolidation. What she does instead is tell the story of how Chinese immigrant workers rub shoulders with African Americans, Latinos, Whites and others -- forging their own sense of self in these ethnic conversations, building up their own sense of class consciousness and dignity in the interstices of their complex lives."

-Vijay Prashad, Trinity College


EDITORS: E. Broderick, B. Shaw and C. Peterson