Monday, February 16, 2009

Social Work with Immigrants and Refugees: Interview with Dr. Elaine Congress and Fernando Chang-Muy, J.D.

[Episode 48] In today's podcast, I speak with Dr. Elaine Congress, and Fernando Chang-Muy, JD about their 2008 text from Springer publications, Social Work with Immigrants and Refugees: Legal Issues, Clinical Skills and Advocacy (note: a second edition was published in 2015). We talk about why they thought it was important to have legal and social work perspectives in a book on working with immigrants and refugees. We also talk about the interface between social services and legal system, how social workers and lawyers can work together when helping immigrants and refuges, and some of the ways that professionals can advocate for immigrants and refugees at a policy level. Elaine and Fernando ended our conversation with some ideas about how the concepts discussed in today’s podcast and the book can be applied to people who live in countries other than the United States. Related podcast: Listen to Elaine Congress talk about using her visual assessment tool, the Culturagram, when working with immigrants and refugees.

Download MP3 [34:17]

Interview Questions

  1. How did you come to co-author a text on immigrants and refugees (I&R)? Why have legal and social work perspectives as opposed to legal and public health, or education and social work?
  2. In the introduction to your text, Social Work with Immigrants and Refugees, you invoke this idea of the “the stranger,” and set out to answer the question “how to welcome the stranger.” What do you mean by “welcome the stranger?”
  3. There are two assumptions in your text. One is that I&R need help and the other is that social workers should help. In your text, you have chapters on needs of immigrants and refugees, including issues of physical and mental health, children and families, education, issues of sexual orientation and gender preference, aging, and legal advocacy. Can you talk about one or two things that social workers need to know to help immigrants and refugees?
  4. How can social workers and lawyers work together to help I&R? How do the legal and social work perspectives on helping I&R differ or complement each other?
  5. What policies or pieces of legislation that affect I&R should our listeners be aware of? How can social workers best advocate for their I&R clients?
  6. I know that this book is geared towards working with immigrants and refugees in the United States of America, but immigration and working with refugees is not an issue that is unique to the USA. How might listeners in other countries make sense of the information you've presented today?


Fernando Chang-Muy, JD, is the Thomas O’Boyle Lecturer in Law at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, where he teaches refugee law and policy. He also lectures on immigration and social work, and on organizational effectiveness, at the Graduate School of Social Policy and Practice, Executive Education Program, with a focus on strategic planning, board governance, and resource development. Drawing upon his experience in law, refugee camp administration, and philanthropy, Fernando also provides independent consulting, coaching, and training to government agencies, local and national philanthropic institutions, social service agencies, and cultural organizations. His specific areas of expertise that help to strengthen the effectiveness of organizations include: strategic planning, board governance, resource development (with a focus on individual donor campaigns), human resource development, and meeting and process facilitation. Recent clients include the United Nations—UNAIDS, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Aging, and the City of Philadelphia’s Law as well as Health departments. He has also served as director of the local site of Hispanics in Philanthropy, a $50 million nationwide philanthropic collaborative increasing the net amount of dollars flowing to Latino nonprofits.

He is a former program officer at the Philadelphia Foundation, and past coordinator of the Emma Lazarus Collaborative, a funding collaborative that, through matching grants from the Open Society Institute, supported nonprofit organizations providing service and advocacy for immigrants and refugees. He has also served as start-up founding director of the Liberty Center for Survivors of Torture, a federally funded project that provides services and advocacy for survivors of torture. He is a former cochair of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s International Human Rights Committee; and a former assistant dean and Equal Opportunity Officer of the College at Swarthmore College, where he also taught International Human Rights. From 1988 to 1993, he served as legal officer with two United Nations (UN) agencies: the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Health Organization (WHO), serving as the human rights officer for its Global Program on AIDS. Before joining the UN, he was a staff attorney at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia where he served as director of the Southeast Asian Refugee Project, managing the provision of free legal aid to low-income people in Philadelphia.

He is a graduate of Loyola (BA), Georgetown (MA), Antioch (JD), and Harvard Law School’s Negotiation Program. Awards include 1982–1983 Reginald Heber Smith Fellowship (Reggie) awarded by Congress through Howard University to law school graduates committed to civil rights; the 1990 21st Century Trust Fellowship from the United Kingdom; the 2001 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Social Justice Award from the Rutgers University School of Law; the 2002 Michael Greenberg GALLOP award for leadership, activism, and legal advocacy; the 2007 La Justicia Award from the Hispanic Bar Association of Pennsylvania; and the 2007 Delaware Valley’s Most Influential Latinos from El Concilio and the Multicultural Affairs Congress. In July 2008, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter appointed him to the Board of the Philadelphia Human Relations Commission. He was named in 2003 as Thomas O’Boyle Lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, established to recognize the contributions made to students’ legal education by outstanding lawyers and judges who teach and share their experience with students.

Dr. Elaine Congress is professor and associate dean at Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service. She is on the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) United Nations team and is a member of the NGO Committees on Migration and the United Nations International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. In addition she serves as the North American representative on the IFSW Permanent Committee on Ethical Issues. Dr. Congress has many publications on cultural diversity and ethics in social work. She is the author of six books including the recently published Social work with immigrants and refugees: Legal issues, clinical skills, and advocacy. When Dr. Congress began in the social work field, she first worked with immigrants as a direct practitioner, as a supervisor, and as an administrator in a community mental health clinic in Brooklyn. There she worked with Latino immigrants from Puerto Rico, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. Her experience with diverse Latino clients led her to develop the culturagram that helps practitioners individualize families from diverse cultural backgrounds. Although the culturagram is most commonly discussed and applied within the context of working with immigrants and refugees, it can be used to great effect with people from the majority culture who are often mistakenly thought to be "culture-free."

Transcript [pdf download ]

Jonathan Singer: Today’s podcast is on social work with immigrants and refugees. According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, an immigrant is someone who comes to a country to take up permanent residence. This definition makes immigration seem pretty boring. If you believe the popular press in the United States, most immigrants sneak into the country at night, in Texas or California, have something to do with an unscrupulous character called a coyote, and take jobs from legal residents and use taxpayer dollars to educate their children and pay for their health care. This image of the immigrant as villain sells papers and plays into an age old theme in the United States that the stranger cannot be trusted. In fact, the majority of immigrants living in the United States are classified as legal permanent residents—that is, people who are authorized to live here permanently. The United States would not be the country it is today without immigrants. If you don’t believe me, ask someone whose ancestors were here before the pilgrims arrived 400 years ago.

A refugee is someone who flees a country or power to avoid persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Wyclef Jean, the founder and lead singer of the Washington, D.C.-based group, The Fugees, is a refugee from Haiti. The group’s name, The Fugees, is a shortened version of the word Refugee.

The social work profession in the United States believes that immigration and refugee policies should simultaneously uphold and support equity and human rights, and protect national security. Immigration policies must promote social justice and avoid racism and discrimination or profiling on the basis of race, religion, country of origin, gender, or other grounds. NASW has a special interest in the impact of refugee and immigration policies on families and children. NASW supports policies that encourage family reunification and ensure that children do not grow up unduly disadvantaged by the immigration status of their parents. A quick note before we start the interview – I used Skype to record the interview; Elaine was in New York and Fernando was in Philadelphia.

Jonathan Singer: So how did you come to co-author a text on immigrants and refugees?

Elaine Congress: Very interesting question, I will tell you that our editor, Jennifer Parillo, really was a matchmaker. Uh, Fernando knows a lot about social workers, I mean he has taught at social work school, as well as law school. And, in fact, he had been interviewed for an article on social work with immigrants and Jennifer had approached him about doing a book on social work practice and issues with immigrants. Also I knew Jennifer because I had published with Springer, and I had a book, two editions of a book: Multicultural perspectives on working with families. So Jennifer approached me if I would like to meet Fernando and work with on social work with immigrants and refugees. This is something I have been very interested in for many years, ever since I first started in practice in social work, I worked with many immigrants from Latin American countries, and I know Fernando also has been very interested and worked with immigrants for many years.

Jonathan Singer: Clearly you both have interests in this area, but why have legal and social work perspectives as opposed to legal and public health or education and social work? What is about having legal and social work perspectives together that’s so important?

Elaine Congress: It’s become increasingly apparent that in order to provide direct practice you really need to understand the legal and policy context in order to effectively help immigrants and refugees.

Fernando Chang-Muy: Unfortunately lawyers, immigration lawyers, tend to be unilateral, and they think that after they help their clients regularize their status the work ends there, and unfortunately that’s not true because people’s lives are impacted by the law, by the Public Health Department, by the Department of Agriculture, which issues food stamps. It would be wonderful in an ideal world after the lawyer finishes helping the individual with their legal issues, getting a green card, they could then transfer them or refer them to social workers to help them with the rest of their lives, unfortunately that doesn’t happen very often so that’s why the melding together of immigration and social work would be great. It will be the lawyers who will not see this text and hopefully if an immigrant first approaches a social worker, the social worker then might approach the lawyer and try to have the two industries or the two sectors work together.

Jonathan Singer: In the introduction to your text “Social work with immigrants and refugees” you invoke this idea of “the stranger” and set out to answer the question how to welcome the stranger, what do you mean by welcome the stranger?

Fernando Chang-Muy: Well I am reminded of whatever culture you are from whether you are Jewish, or Muslim or Christian or Buddhist, there are always these principles of welcome the stranger, so I am reminded of the Torah. It says welcome the stranger. I am reminded of in the Muslim tradition there is a statement that says even if there is a stranger, a non-Muslim among you, you should help that person and convey them to safety. There is the golden rule of Buddhism; there is the treat others as you would be treated in Christianity. So cultures have these similar patterns in thinking of welcoming people who are not like us. There are always a stranger among us, there’s always someone leaving fleeing their country of origin, for either human rights reasons or economic reasons and this text aims to help the readers, in this case social workers better understand how to welcome the stranger, that new person who’s just arrived in our midst.

Jonathan Singer: There are two assumptions in your text, one is that immigrants and refugees need help and the other is that social workers should help. So in your text you have chapters on the needs of immigrants and refugees including issues of: physical and mental health, children and families, education, issues of sexual orientation and gender preference, aging, and legal advocacy. Can you talk about one or two things that social workers need to know to help immigrants and refugees?

Elaine Congress: Well, immigrants often have difficulties accessing social services, health care, they may not know where to go, know how to work with these systems and social workers can really help them access these services and systems that they really need. Also, many immigrants have issues about their legal status and certainly social workers can and should refer to lawyers who can help them with their status. I think an important lesson for all social workers that we learn in social work 101 to really begin with where the client is and in order to do that social workers really have to understand the client. I have a culturagram, a family assessment tool that I developed that really helps a social worker look at a client in terms of ten different aspects and this could be very helpful.

Jonathan Singer: You and I did a podcast on the culturagram and listeners can access that on the Social Work Podcast website, so you are saying that using this culturagram is one of the tools that social workers can use when working with immigrants and refugees?

Elaine Congress: Right, and that can be really helpful because you have to really assess the person that you are working with and see where they are and where they come from, after this assessment then you are ready to move on to planned treatment and intervention.

Fernando Chang-Muy: Yeah. I would like to add, Jonathan that one of the things and this is to underscore what Elaine just said, one of the things that social workers need to know help immigrants and refugees is the legal issues. So right up front of the text we have a whole chapter devoted to “What’s a Green Card, what’s a refugee, what’s a US citizen, how do people come in?”, and the goal is not to turn the reader or the social work practitioner into a lawyer, just to be familiar with these terms. Whether we like it or not the demographics of the US are changing and social workers need to stay in tune with changing demographics, and also with the law. So this is especially important in the southern states, Florida, California, Arizona, Texas, but all over, even North Carolina, has seen an explosion of immigrants. The other thing, Jonathan, you said that the text talks about how immigrants and refugees need help, throughout the text though, not only do our authors talk about how immigrants and refugees need help, but they also talk about the strengths and assets that the immigrant and refugee community brings. So sure it is the nature of the beast of social work practice and it’s the nature of immigration practice that people come to us with need, need, need, I need help, help, help, but throughout we remind the reader that the new comers also bring strengths and assets.

Jonathan Singer: Yeah I appreciate you pointing that out because I think that does too often get lost in the mix. We start thinking about our clients as simply people who have problems as opposed to people who have a lifetime worth of resources, and unless we are able to tap into those then we are really doing our clients and ourselves a disservice, so I appreciate you bringing that up. Is there something in particular that you can think of maybe that was addressed in one of these chapters about issues of physical and mental health, children and families, that could be a challenge on one hand and then an example of something that these families bring as resources or these immigrants bring as resources and strengths.

Fernando Chang-Muy: Sure, well just talking about children, the challenge is that the public school system, the administrators may not be familiar with rights of children, and so a challenge is sometimes a public school district will prevent a child from enrolling in school, so that’s a challenge for the parents and of course the child. The strength or asset is actually the child itself. Look at the winners of the Westinghouse Science Contest, look at winners of spelling bees, look at the talent that has been developed here of either children born, US citizen children born of immigrants, or immigrant children coming here and eventually becoming lawful permanent residents and US citizens. So the challenge is not with the newcomers the challenge is with the system that prevents access to services, in this case public education. And the success is the children themselves, the children of immigrants, or those children who were born abroad are bringing great resources to this country. I used to work with the UN High Commissioner for refugees and they had this really great poster, it was black background, and one light was shining onto the face of Albert Einstein, and the wording on the very simple poster was “Einstein was a refugee look at what he brought to our country”. So in opening doors we help people, but those of us who are already here help ourselves by accepting these brains who are coming in either at the very high level, as well as the low, blue-collar level, the picking mushrooms, the working in the chicken factory, doing the landscaping, all of that is done by immigrant labor.

Jonathan Singer: And you are talking about helping, helping folks and one of my other questions is how can social workers and lawyers work together to help immigrants and refugees, and specifically how do the legal and social work perspectives on helping immigrants and refugees differ and maybe complement each other?

Fernando Chang-Muy: It’s incompetent in both professions to cross-refer. And fortunately, the social work profession and in social work school, that is the ethos, let’s collaborate and let’s work with others. In the, and I’ll criticize my own profession, the legal profession, we are taught very silo-ish ways of thinking I’m a contract lawyer, I ‘m an immigration lawyer, a intellectual property lawyer, I’ll do my thing and forget about working with others. And so it’s incumbent, I’ll put the burden on the legal profession, to as I previously mentioned that after they work with the person, in helping them with just that one focused issue, getting a Green Card, getting regularized, that they say by the way have you thought of going to agency x two blocks away so that someone there can help you with housing issues, or with access to getting a medical card, or getting a job, you have been working and now it’s time to do this upfront and pay your back taxes, so that’s one way that lawyers and social workers can work together. If the client first approaches the social worker, the first thing social worker will need to is an assessment, the culturagram assessment as well as a legal assessment, and if the person needs immigration assistance, to refer to the appropriate public interest lawyer or private lawyer, and that’s how they can complement each other, by knowing each other’s issues and by knowing that they exist, and identifying good resources, the social worker identifying good public interest immigration firms and where they are located, or honest private attorneys, and vice versa, that the lawyer knows who are the good social workers in the area and what are the agency’s they work and making the appropriate referrals.

Elaine Congress: Oh yeah I think that’s very important, that it’s a two way street because one basic difference I have always felt is that lawyers are really client focused like there’s one case, you don’t have a family case you represent one person, one client, in terms of his or her immigrations status. In social work you always have much more of a family approach, and this is a different way of kinda doing business if you will, but it would really work out well if there was referral back and forth and I would want collaboration.

Jonathan Singer: You know it sounds like setting up mixers with lawyers and social workers and lawyers who work with immigrants and refugees might not be a bad idea.

Elaine Congress: That’s interesting!

Jonathan Singer: So when I was in Austin as a social worker I helped to start a group called the Austin Spanish Speaking Mental Health Professional Network and it was an informal network of mental health providers who spoke Spanish and we had a listserv and it was really a way for us to post something on the list saying hey I’ve got a family and they’ve got a domestic violence issue, or sex abuse, or they have this that and the other thing, and is there somebody out there who’s got an opening, what resources are available, and it really turned into this fabulous resource for mental health providers, it’s still going, you know what we never thought about expanding it and opening it up to what we would have thought of as like an auxiliary services, you know like lawyers, or medical professionals outside of the mental health field, but as your talking it really sounds like that is a very valuable service to have some sort of linkage between these two groups. Now in your text on immigrants and refugees you write about Drachman's three-part approach to social work practice with immigrant families. The first part you mention was understanding the immigrants’ relationship to their country of origin and the second part was how they got here, which Drachman calls transit, can you talk about the third part of the approach?

Elaine Congress: The third part it’s a client or family situation here in the United States. I’m going to give an example about how knowing only the third part was not as helpful as when we really learned more about the first and the second part. We spoke a little while before about education and some of the issues in terms of education. This happened in a public school, there was an eight year old boy who was just very tearful all the time, just didn’t speak, didn’t get involved at all and then finally we found out he was from a central American country, spoke only Spanish, and with a Spanish speaking social worker we were able to learn his history. Apparently his father belonged to a dissonant political group in his country and was taken away in the middle of the night probably to be killed. His uncle had smuggled him and his mother out of the country and they came through Mexico entered as undocumented people and it was a very difficult transit. So it was really helpful for us to understand the first part of his history and how, and you can imagine how traumatic it was for him to have to leave his home in the middle of the night to completely leave behind his familiar environment and also such a difficult time traveling across the border and then up to New York. So I think this illustrates why we shouldn’t just focus on what we see in front of us, the actual current situation of the immigrant, but really have to keep in mind the earlier parts of their lives.

Fernando Chang-Muy: Yeah I would agree and especially the refugee context as opposed to the immigration context. A refugee in their country of origin may have suffered torture, maybe even someone in the medical profession may have done the torture, and then secondly in the transit is raped, and now they are here and so the triple trauma, it helps to know what happened in the country of origin, and what happened in the transit, so that for example a doctor does not suddenly shine a light in the persons eye which is the way that they may have been tortured in their country of origin. A male doctor may want to recuse himself and not see the patient because the patient was raped in transit to this country. And so as Elaine just mentioned, knowing what happened in the country of origin, it helps knowing what happened in transit helps provide better service now that they are here, and so that they won’t be equally traumatized here in the United States. Now this is where actually immigration lawyers do refugee law processing, we’ll get this information out because that is actually the meat of a refugee story. You have to tell what happened in your country of origin and why are you afraid of being persecuted. Whereas a practitioner or a social worker in a hospital or a mental health social service agency might get to that as well, but others may not. So this is where the two can work together. Jonathan I want to go back to your other question about social workers and lawyers working together, and I know that what you did in Texas is really great, there are more models like that happening around the country. In Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia where I live, there’s actually an organization called the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, PICC< and the purpose of that coalition is to do exactly what you mentioned earlier, which is to bring people from diverse industries or work areas, social work, law, public sector, the Department of Health, the Department of X,Y, or Z, so that they all talk about how what’s going on in their world impacts immigrants and refugees in the Philadelphia area. This model is happening as well as in New York, Boston, and Illinois, and so more and more the professions are seeing that they can rally around a population group, in this case immigrants and refugees, and let’s learn from each other, let’s talk about what’s going on with drivers licenses, with housing, with state legislation, with federal legislation, and then we can share information together. Jonathan Singer: That’s great, and we can put the link to that group on the Social Work Podcast Website. Fernando Chang-Muy: The link is Jonathan Singer: So you’re talking about sort of an interdisciplinary group of folks that get together around a population, in this case immigrants and refugees, and how they can effect legislation, and I was wondering, because I know you talk about this in the book, but what policies or pieces of legislation that effect immigrants and refugees should our listeners be aware of? And how can social workers best advocate on a policy level for their immigrant and refugee clients? Fernando Chang-Muy: Sure, the answer to that question is going to depend on where the listeners are. But city councils, state governments, often try to pass laws that might have an impact on immigrants. So it’s important for the social worker to be aware of that and see what if anything can be done. So for example, in the city of Hazelton, a city in Pennsylvania, there was discussion of turning landlords into the agents of the immigration service. In other situations there have been proposed legislations saying only US citizens, or lawful permanent residents, can apply for a marriage license. And so these are all city and state laws that impact immigrants, so the first thing of course is just to know what is going on. Then taking it to the next level, social workers might be used to working in a one on one case or in a family situation as Elaine mentioned, but not be as used to working on systemic change, and so the last chapter of the text raises awareness to the reader that indeed just as important as it is for you to work on direct clinical issues, and on one on one and with families, it’s also important that social workers marshal with other social workers and other people interested in the issue to try to effect systemic change. In this case it could be city laws, state laws, or federal laws that impact immigrants. Many social workers work in non-profit organizations which are prohibited from lobbying but are not prohibited from educating, and there is a distinction, so the last chapter in the book talks about why it’s important to work on systems change, why it’s important for social workers to know the difference between lobbying and educating, and how 501c3 non-profit organizations where many social workers might work in, can educate policy makers and do that legally. Jonathan Singer: So what is the difference between educating and lobbying, just briefly? Fernando Chang-Muy: Sure, well for that you’ll have to read the book Jonathan. But it’s ok to go to a specific policy maker and say we’re concerned about how policies might affect our clients. So according to the folks from Alliance for Justice, lobbying is when you are for or against a specific piece of legislation or you proclaim you’re for or against a specific incumbent, and that is expressly prohibited. But you can go and raise awareness with legislators and talk about the strengths of immigrant kids, how today’s immigrant kid might be tomorrow’s Einstein, and how they need to be aware of that. Jonathan Singer: That’s great. Well thank you. Certainly if you’re interested in more information, detailed information, you can find it in the book. I guess the last question that I have is something that touches on something that we have talked about on and off throughout this podcast, which is that there are listeners of the podcast who don’t live in the United States, and for listeners in other countries, how might they make sense of the information that we have talked about in today’s interview that was specific to the United States? Elaine Congress: Well first let me just say that migration is occurring all over the world. We’re very aware of it here in the United States, people are moving around the world, and of course the move is primarily from developing countries to developed country, but it’s happening everywhere. I think Fernando and I have been involved on the NGO committee on migration and we’ve looked at immigration patterns, and usually similar to the United States, there are many issues in countries in terms of the ways that immigrants are received. It’s true that laws may differ, and are somewhat unique to each country, but definitely in terms of social work skills in working in say a house setting with immigrants, or an educational system with immigrants probably really would carry over. Also, I just want to mention the phenomenon of transnationalism. What we really see now is that many immigrants are part of two countries, really are bicultural, and very often they physically travel back and forth, or even if they don’t physically travel because of modern technology, and emails and cell phones, there are able to have continual contact with people who they left behind. So this is another reason why this book is applicable, not only to US social workers, but really social workers all over the world. And there are probably about 750,000 social workers around the world. Jonathan Singer: Wow, I didn’t know that; that’s a lot of social workers. Elaine Congress: Right. Fernando Chang-Muy: And Jonathan, even though the chapter on the legal part, uses words like “getting a Green Card”, in Canada it might be a different word like “becoming a landed immigrant”. But the principles are there, most countries recognize refugee status and the text explains what’s a refugee. Most countries give lawful permanent residence to foreigners, and they may not use those words like “getting a Green Card”, but the principles still apply across the board. And again although the laws, the word, the terminology might be different, the issues, the strengths, and challenges that people face are the same. An abused woman in the US is still an abused woman in England. And so a social worker, be that in England or the US, might still find the chapter on immigrant women and the particular issues of battered immigrant women, that’s going to cut across countries and borders. Elaine Congress: Another important issue, probably in all countries, immigrants are discriminated against and are often the subject of biased crimes and oppressive policies, and I think it’s very important for social workers because we are very concerned about promoting social justice, to identify when this occurs and to really advocate to make a change within their own countries. Jonathan Singer: To bring it right back around to the beginning when we talked about the welcoming the stranger, it really sounds like the text that you wrote is really meant as a way of both educating social workers about legal perspectives, but as kind of a bridge building book between the professions and ultimately is a way of addressing social justice from a strengths perspective around this population of immigrants and refugees. Fernando Chang-Muy: Just to follow-up on what you said, we are trying to get the book in legal clinics for example, and there are many law schools around the country, which have a legal immigration clinic. And again the young student is a mirror image of the older immigration lawyer who sees the client, helps them get a Green Card, and says “goodbye”, and hopefully with this text, the young law student in an immigration clinic might pick up the book and say the problem doesn’t stop here, now that I’ve gotten my client a Green Card, there might be other issues that they might be facing: Employment, health, mental health, issues of abuse, let me see if I can refer them to a social worker. Jonathan Singer: That would be great. Elaine Congress: There are many schools, I know we do at Fordham and also at the University of Pennsylvania, have joint law and social work programs. Fernando Chang-Muy: Exactly. Elaine Congress: And in fact there are some classes, integrative seminars, in which there are both law students and social work students and it’s a wonderful time to have them begin to discuss some of these issues to help them form relationships in terms of working with immigrant clients. Jonathan Singer: Elaine and Fernando, thank you so much for talking with me today about immigrants and refugees, I really appreciate it. Elaine Congress: Thank you I really enjoyed having the opportunity to talk with you, aka Jonathan, and also with you Fernando, about one of my favorite topics on social work with immigrants and refugees. Fernando Chang-Muy: Thank you Jonathan for being adaptable and flexible, and raising awareness, not just through books and lectures, but through this newly emerging technology, which is not that emerging, but this able, podcasts are able to reach more people. So thank you for your advocacy, and thank you Elaine for this journey for the past year, in putting this book together, and of course to Jennifer Perillo at Springer Publications.

References and Resources

Chang-Muy, F. and Congress, E. (2015). Social Work with Immigrants and Refugees, Second Edition: Legal Issues, Clinical Skills, and Advocacy, 2nd EditionNew York: Springer Publishing Company

Congress. E. and Gonzalez, M. (2005). Multicultural perspectives in working with families (2nd ed.) New York: Springer Publishing Company.

Congress, E. (2004). Cultural and ethnic issues in working with culturally diverse patients and their families: Use of the culturagram to promote cultural competency in health care settings. Social Work in Health Care, 39 (3/4), 249-262.

Congress, E. (2002). Using culturagrams with culturally diverse families. In A. Roberts & G. Greene. Social Work Desk Reference (pp. 57-61). New York: Oxford University Press.

Congress, E. (1994). The use of culturagrams to assess and empower culturally diverse families. Families in Society, 75 (9), 531-540.

Online resources

Author. (2008, August 13). The immigration debate. National Public Radio. Retrieved February 16, 2009 from

Becker, A., & McDonnell, P. J. (2009, March 4). Mexico's drug war creates new class of refugees. L.A. Times Online. Retrieved March 5, 2009 from,0,1751265.story

Glass, I. (2006, January 20). My big break. This American Life. Retrieved February 16, 2009 from

  • Host Ira Glass tells the story of Marisela and Yadira, who were honors students in high school. They wanted to go to the best colleges, but they couldn't get federally-funded scholarships because they weren't U.S. citizens; they had come from Mexico when they were little. Through a series of fortunate breaks, they manage to scrape together enough money to go to college. Still, because of their illegal status, they have no idea if their education will get them anywhere in America. Helen Thorpe, a reporter in Denver, interviewed the students. (7 minutes)

Glass, I. (2005, November 18). Strangers in a Strange Land. This American Life. Retrieved February 16, 2009 from

  • Someone once said, "If you're not willing to be changed by a place, there's no point in going." This week, stories about what happens when you land in a whole new world.

Author. (n.d.). Immigration to the United States. Wikipedia.

Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition: (from the website) "a diverse group that brings together professionals, advocates and immigrant groups of different backgrounds to share information and resources, identify common problems, and advocate for solutions."

Poggioli, S. (2008, December 7). Americans, Europeans split on immigration views. National Public Radio. Retrieved February 16, 2009 from

United States Immigration Support.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

APA (6th ed) citation for this podcast:

Singer, J. B. (Host). (2009, February 16). Social work with immigrants and refugees: Interview with Elaine Congress, Ph.D. and Fernando Changy-Muy, J.D. [Episode 48]. Social Work Podcast. Podcast retrieved from


Anirban Ghosh said...

Thanks for sharing such an information about immigration.

Anonymous said...
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ありー♪ said...

What a great post filled with invaluable information from two extremely professional and intelligent people.

I am a senior in college (studying a double major in International Relations and Spanish). I am quite conflicted about which step I should take next in my academic career. I want to work with immigrants and refugees (preferably from Latin America but of course open to anything)However I am not sure in what setting I would like to do it (legal, social work etc.). This post has opened my eyes to the possibility of Social Work with immigrants. How realistic (in terms of availability) is this as a career?

Thanks for your time and information!

Frank Polizzi