Pathways to Immigrant Opportunity
In this report we provide an overview of a wide array of promising and innovative strategies for the integration of immigrant children, youth, and their families to a new society. We group best-practices into five broad categories: Orientation to the New Society; Educational Efforts Oriented towards Parents; School-based Practices Oriented towards Children & Youth; After-school Activities for Children & Youth; and Efforts towards Improving the Perceptions of Immigrants in a new Society. We describe ways these promising practices can serve to facilitate integration and highlight examples of promising work being done in each of these areas across the globe. We highlight four sites that are particularly notable for serving immigrants.
Global Movements of Families & Their Children
Mass migration is touching every corner of the earth. There are now between 190 and 200 million transnational migrants working, living, and moving across every region of the world (U.N. Global Commission on International Migration, 2005). For some countries, the story of immigration is as old as their founding; for others, the experience of receiving large numbers of foreigners is entirely novel. Immigrant populations vary dramatically across countries in their number and proportion and in their geographical, national, ethnic, religious, and linguistic origins, which span the entire range of humanity. At the same time, however, there is a convergence of experience among various nation-states, as the steady flow of migrants across borders and into the institutional and social structures of society demands a public response. The current global migration phenomenon presents a unique opportunity for cross-national collaboration. Developing and sharing best practices to meet the needs of immigrant families and their children and to support their successful integration into their new societies is no longer an option but a requirement for economic development and social cohesion.
Identifying Promising Practices
This report outlines several important areas of immigrant integration and explores specific examples of promising practices in each area that are currently being implemented in various countries around the world. By providing a brief overview of the main conceptual categories of integration employed in this research and presenting short case studies of some of the exciting and innovative work being done to promote immigrant integration in each of these categories, this report is designed to present various stakeholders — policymakers, practitioners, and grant makers — with a set of ideas and resources to further their thinking and their ongoing work to improve immigrant integration efforts.
It is important to develop comprehensive and well-coordinated integration policies and strategies, and this report serves in part as a response to the growing need in many countries to effectively tackle this challenge. Immigration means change. Immigrants change as they move, the societies where they settle change, and even the countries they leave behind tend to change as a result of mass migration. Social scientists and policy makers use the idea of integration to examine the changes migration generates. Integration has been defined, redefined, and debated in various social science and policy contexts. Rather than track the history of the concept, suffice it here to say that it is most frequently used to analyze the changes undergone by immigrants and the new societies in which they settle (Entzinger, 2000; Favell, 1998; Heckmann & Schnapper, 2003; Ireland, 2004; Penninx, 2003). Interpretations of the term “integration” vary substantially across national contexts, and it has been understood as indicating both positive (supportive and mutually beneficial) and negative (coercive) outcomes (Joppke, 2007). Integration can take place across multiple spheres (e.g., psychological, social, cultural, economic, and political.) In addition, scholars have identified a number of dimensions of integration, of which structural (access to the labor market and core institutions), cultural (behavioral and attitudinal), social (relationships), and identificational (belonging and identity) are the most commonly studied (Heckmann & Schnapper, 2003; Spencer & Cooper, 2006). The definition of “integration” developed by researchers involved in the EFFNATIS (Effectiveness of National Integration Strategies for Migrant Youth) project, a study conducted between 1998 and 2000 of the relationship between national integration policies and outcomes for second-generation immigrant youth in eight European countries, is a useful one, and it will serve as the conceptual explanation of integration for the purposes of this report. Heckmann and Schnapper (2003) define “integration” as “the inclusion of new populations into existing social structures of the immigration country. . . . It concerns primarily the immigrants and their descendants, but is an interactive, mutual process that changes the settlement society as well” (p. 10).
We conducted a systematic review of best practices found in the relevant scholarly literature, on websites, and through our extensive network of international contacts. We included countries that represent various immigration patterns and provide a range of institutional frameworks for integration. This report identifies a series of promising strategies provided by a range of service providers (including NGOs, national and local governments, religious organizations, and corporate organizations) that help to facilitate the integration of immigrant families and their children into the fabric of their new lands. We grouped these into five broad categories:
- Orientation to New Society
- Educational Efforts Oriented Towards Parents
- School-based Practices Oriented Towards Children & Youth
- After-school Activities for Children & Youth
- Efforts towards Improving Perceptions of Immigrants
and then identified a number of more specific domains of promising practice. Under each category we describe the ways these promising practices can serve to facilitate integration, and we highlight examples of promising work being done in each of these areas across the globe.
Notably, these categories are not mutually exclusive. Some promising practice organizations incorporate many of the features noted. We will highlight four sites that are remarkable for utilizing a broad range of promising and/or innovative practices in their services with immigrant youth and their families. These sites provide models of service, which can serve as an inspiration to others who wish to help the newest immigrants become happy, healthy, and well-integrated participants of their new lands. They are: