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Immigration and Social Work

Social workers are caught in a nightmare triangle that includes federal legislation that denies welfare benefits for illegal immigrants and the illegal immigrants in desperate need of these benefits. In several cases, the U.S. government has provided the means for illegal immigrants to obtain legal status, yet a great number of these individuals did not take advantage of these policies.Immigration and Social Work

Immigration and Living Conditions

Immigrants are driven to the U.S. by poor economic and quality of life conditions in their own countries in many instances. On arrival in the U.S., these immigrants must face discrimination on many fronts, language barriers, and their own fears of the U.S. government. Illegal immigrants often remain below the radar of social services, making it even more difficult for social workers to help those in need.

Current legislation does not provide a remedy for meeting the social, economic, or medical needs of illegal immigrants. In addition, social workers are often frustrated by the fear that prevents illegal aliens from seeking help when needed. When medical ailments go untreated, the chance that they will turn into bigger and more costly medical problems in the future is multiplied.

Social Workers and Immigration

Social workers must do the best they can in a situation where the government has failed to both stop illegal immigration and to provide for those individuals who do manage to cross the border or outstay their visas. For these workers there is no easy answer. As in times past before the advent of social welfare policies, these workers will have to rely on the generosity of church and non-profit community based organizations to meet the needs of those they are trying to help.

Illegal Aliens, 1996 Estimates (000s)

Top Countries of Origin

Top States of Residence

Mexico

2,700

California

2,000

El Salvador

355

Texas

700

Guatemala

165

New York

540

Canada

120

Florida

350

Haiti

105

Illinois

290

Philippines

95

New Jersey

135

Honduras

90

Arizona

115

Poland

70

Massachusetts

85

Nicaragua

70

Virginia

55

Bahamas

70

Washington

52

Source: US Immigration and Naturalization Service

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