A Breakwater in the Waves: Social Work and the History of Immigration to the United States

By Gregory Acevedo and Natasha Menon.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Through a retrospective analysis of United States (U.S.) immigration history and associated discourses on migration and globalization, we focus on how the social work profession has responded to immigration as a long-standing concern for social workers. From its inception, the political economy of the U.S. has been indebted to successive waves of immigrants as an essential resource, and they remain an integral part of the U.S. economy and increased global integration. In the current context of the retrenchment of the welfare state and the dominance of the neo-liberal paradigm of political economy, social work’s contemporary response to immigration seems weak and ineffective. The conceptualization of immigration from a social work perspective remains relatively uninformed by understandings from social science. We focus on the strengths and weaknesses in the profession’s role in constructing “breakwaters,” policies and practices that are formulated to contend with the political, economic, and social impact and instabilities that result from large waves of immigration. We draw upon these insights later to reflect on the implications for social work practice and education. We argue that these weaknesses not only reflect the profession’s elementary view of immigration, but also its historical ambivalence toward the dilemmas and contradictions posed by immigration and global integration.

Keywords: Immigration, Social Work, United States, Historical Review

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 4, Issue 8, pp.123-138. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.240MB).

Dr. Gregory Acevedo

Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Social Service, Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service, New York, USA

Gregory Acevedo, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Social Work in the Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service. He teaches in the area of social welfare policy and human behavior and the social environment. His scholarly work has focused on the political, economic, and sociocultural circumstances of Hispanic/ Latino groups in the United States, with a focus on such issues as socioeconomic status, immigration and globalization, political and civic participation, education, family dynamics, and health and mental health outcomes, and their implications for social work theory, research, and practice. He received his Ph.D. in Social Work in 2001 from the Bryn Mawr College Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research; a Master of Science degree in Psychological Services in Education from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education (1987); and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania (1985). He completed his externship training in family therapy at the Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic (1987-1988). He has professional practice experience in various children and family, and mental health agencies.

Dr. Natasha Menon

Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Social Service, Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service, New York, USA

Natasha Menon is an Assistant Professor at the Graduate School of Social Sciences at Fordham University, New York. She has a Masters in Social Work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai and a MSW and Ph.D from Washington University in St. Louis, USA. Her areas of scholarship include devolution of public goods and its impact on community collective action, social welfare policy in the developing world, globalization and citizenship, and impact of Information and Communication Technology in urban community development.


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