IIL Banner 2013

Issue 2.2    
In this Issue:
Religious Institutions


The Midwest, Recovering with the Help of Immigrants (Photos)

Ty William Wright
New York Times

Precisely the Patch of Earth
Omar Sacirbey
August, 2013
One Nation Indivisible


Miami, November 17th-19th, 2013

Hosted by National Partnership for New Americans, the Florida Immigrant Coalition & the Knight Foundation


CommentaryWelcome! 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 immigrant integration.


The Research and Books column is a bulletin board, meant to foster dialogue and to encourage scholarship, and the use of evidence-based research.

Welcoming the Other, Faithfully

The darkness created by the US government shutdown enables the light of faith-based communities' commitment to immigrant integration to shine more brightly.  At times, worship services can be the least integrated hour in America but the exceptional level of engagement provided by the faith community - as witnessed by the variety of social services, ministries and volunteer pursuits - is a critical element in successful newcomer reception and integration. One need only compare the US environment with any European community that lacks these faith-based elements, and the importance is even further magnified. Countries like Finland (with tiny participation levels in worship) or Ireland (with a voluntary sector less than one third that of the US) struggle to mobilize community engagement. The sheer hours of engagement fostered by the US religious community become increasingly noticeable as a mechanism in achieving full incorporation of the foreign born and a significant variable in cross cultural studies.


Researchers have examined the faith community as a source of resilience for refugees, a supplement to resettlement expenses, a deliverer of health care, a provider of housing or foster care for unaccompanied children, a proponent of community acceptance, a facilitator for language classes, and an organizer of ethnic communities. The contributions seem limitless - but the effectiveness of the faith community's integration work needs examination.


A few models of engagement represent the scope of work undertaken by the faith community. Health promoters working for the local faith community have a documented contribution to health and wellbeing. Promotores de Salud, Parish Health Promoters Program in Portland Oregon,is a partnership with Providence Health System and Catholic Charities. They offer training and coordination to community members at Latino parishes to educate the community about health issues, to organize health-related events, and to advocate for services. After multiple weeks of training, data reveals that the volunteers not only improve immigrant health outcomes but act as social mediators and connectors to the benefit of the receiving community. Other health outreach programs that partner with local congregations, such as the Lowell Community Health Center Access Program, find the partnership useful as well.  


One church in Utica, NY has passionately undertaken work with over 600 Karen refugees who have fled the Thai-Burma border. Assistance runs from providing furniture to changing community attitudes through performances at an immigrant arts festival. Such engagements are often taken for granted but likely play a decisive role in fostering social cohesion and provide a type of facilitation that is not likely to come from other players.


The challenge ahead is one of building knowledge: cultivating research to know and understand those interventions that  go beyond simple hospitality and work towards improved outcomes of full social, civic and economic integration of the foreign born. Can awareness, intentionality, and rigorous evaluation together enhance the role of these varied initiatives in promoting the wellbeing of the newcomer and the receiving community? Identifying and researching effective work being done and disseminating impactful practices has significant benefits to immigrants and programs alike.


The Jesuit community is committed to migrant wellbeing, and from this commitment has sprung up global work such as the Jesuit Refugee Services. The complement to this effective international service and advocacy agency is sustained work in the homeland that expresses compassion and uses evidence-based research to propagate models of engagement. All faith communities have a stake in the results of such endeavors.


Westy Egmont, Director 

BCGSSW Immigrant Integration Lab


Lutheran Immigrant and Refugee Service (LIRS)


Through their migrant advocacy work, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) brings a message of welcome to the ears of many thousands of American newcomers. By exposing the practices of detaining families, monitoring issues such as human trafficking, continuing refugee resettlement support, and promoting family unity for unaccompanied migrant children LIRS draws from the Lutheran theology and commitment to humanitarian relief to transform communities through ministries of service and justice. LIRS settled over 8000 refugees last year and provides services to 108 unaccompanied minors.


Each year LIRS celebrates World Refugee Day (June 20) to remember the journeys and accomplishments of refugees who created new lives in the United States. The 2013 "Recognize their Walk" campaign for this year's celebration asked Lutheran members to walk alongside refugees and immigrants in an effort to build cohesion, understanding and integration. This fall, LIRS continued its integration efforts by inviting followers to join in a 40 day fast for immigration reform and for others to engage Congress to act on immigration legislation.


 Read more about LIRS > > 


Bridges and Barriers: Religion and Immigrant Occupational Attainment Across Integration Contexts

Phillip Connnor and Matthias Koenig

International Migration Review, Volume 47, Issue 1 (Spring 2013)

Drawing upon data from the United States, Western Europe, and Canada, Connor and Koenig explore the extent to which religious boundaries impact the occupational attainment of immigrants. Theories of intergenerational immigrant integration guide the majority of analysis. The authors pay close attention to the impact of context-dependent cultural markers on the structural integration of immigrants. The authors find little evidence to support the theory that strong religious boundaries negatively impact the occupational attainment of immigrants. Rather, the data suggest that in countries with robust religious communities, religious participation may have positive impacts. Furthermore, the data indicate that robust religious fields have a greater positive impact on the occupational attainment of second-generation immigrants than first-generation immigrants. 

Read More Here > >


Religious Dimensions of Contexts of Reception: Comparing Two New England Cities
Wendy Cadge, Peggy Levitt, Bernadette Nadya Jaworsky, Casey Clevenger
International Migration, Volume 51, Issue 3 (June 2013)

The article explores different models of service delivery to new immigrants, with a specific focus on the role of faith-based organizations. The study examines immigrant- and refugee-serving organizations in Portland, Maine and Danbury, Connecticut. In each city, civil and religious social services are available. However, Portland serves its refugee population with a larger number of municipal organizations than Danbury, which relies heavily on religious organizations. The authors found that the faith-based service providers in Danbury were also more likely to speak about religion in relation to their work with recent migrants.  While both cities demonstrated collaboration between service providers, religion was occasionally found to be a barrier. Throughout the article, the authors argue the importance of understanding the diversity of service landscapes and the need to contextualize service provision. 

Read More Here > > 


Religion and the Construction of Civic Identity 
Paul Lichterman
American Sociological Review, Volume 73, Issue 83 (008)

Author Paul Lichterman uses participant-observation techniques to explore the impact of religion on group identity and boundary formation. The study was conducted at two religiously-based organizations, both sponsored by the same coalition. Both were located in a mid-sized American city. Evidence indicates that both groups used religious terms to dispute conceptions of civic identity. These disputes occurred despite the shared religious goals of service. Using these findings, the author argues that religion is used to civically include and exclude individuals. In particular, the author explores the ways that religion can advance or detract from collaboration between socially or ideologically different groups.

Read More Here > >

Resources and Interest Among Faith-Based Organizations for Influenza Vaccination Programs

K.T. Bond, K. Jones, D.C. Ompad, D. Vlahov

Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, Volume 15, Issue 4 (Summer 2013)

Yearly, influenza vaccination rates are lower than recommended by national health objectives. This article looks into 'non-traditional' venues that were mobilized to implement influenza vaccinations in New York City. While a variety of venues were mobilized, the article focuses specifically on the impact of faith-based organizations on medically underserved communities. Data in the survey was collected through telephone surveys of 115 faith-based organizations in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Harlem. The study did not focus specifically on health services for immigrant communities; however, the research is significant because of the ethnic, linguistic, and religious diversity in these areas. Moreover, each community has a history of low influenza immunization rates. Data collected from the survey describe the current services offered by faith-based organizations in these communities as well as expressed areas of interest for expansion. Further analysis discusses the role of faith-based organizations as a point of access for both congregants and the community at large. 

Read More Here > >



A Future for the Latino Church: Models for Multilingual, Multigenerational Hispanic Congregations

Rodriguez, D. & Ortiz, M. (2013): IVP Academic

"For decades native-born, English-speaking Latinos have endured the neglect of their spiritual and cultural formation at the hands of Spanish-dominant Latino church leaders who refused change that would address the needs of this growing population of Latinos in the United States. Dr. Rodriguez clearly articulates the resistance present and the transitional shift needed for holistic English-language ministry to flourish in the lives of second-generation Latinos. Every Christian leader who is serious about understanding the complexity and diversity of Latinos must read this insightful contribution to the advancement of the gospel to all Latinos and to the future of the church as a whole in America."

-Rev. Orlando Crespo, National Director of InterVarsity Latino Fellowship


One Family Under God: Immigration, Politics and Progressive Religion in America

Yukich, G. (2013): Oxford University Press

In One Family Under God, Grace Yukich draws on extensive field observation and interviews to reveal how immigration is changing religious activism in the U.S. In the face of nationwide immigration raids and public hostility toward "illegal" immigration, the New Sanctuary Movement emerged in 2007 as a religious force seeking to humanize the image of undocumented immigrants. Building coalitions between religious and ethnic groups that had rarely worked together in the past, activists revived and adapted sanctuary, the tradition of providing shelter for fugitives in houses of worship. Through sanctuary, they called on Americans to support legislation that would keep immigrant families together. 


Bishops on the Border: Pastoral Responses to Immigration

Smith, K. (2011): Morehouse Publishing

This book presents an ecumenical examination of immigration issues drawn from engaging, first-person narratives. A group of bishops (Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, and United Methodist), all based along the US-Mexico border, found common ground to jointly address some key immigration issues, especially those being played out in the state of Arizona. The bishops worked together on behalf of local immigrant populations to address theological and pastoral concerns and prayed for those whose lives were being directly affected. This book grows out of their shared work and the relationships that developed among them.


EDITORS: M. Bennett, E. Broderick, W. Egmont, C. Goldstein-Walsh, and A. Young