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What you Need to Know: Working with Immigrants and Refugees

There are many unique challenges that immigrants and refugees face within the United States. While these communities are not and should not be considered the same--immigrants make a conscious decision to leave their home country to come to another while refugees are individuals that have been forced to flee, without warning, because of war or violence--their experiences can share some similarities. When working with immigrant or refugee communities, it’s important to be mindful of their unique and specific experiences. Here are some best practices to better recognize and work with these communities.

Understand and recognize the complexity of historical trauma.

Historical trauma is known as the joint experiences that are faced by groups of people (such as immigrants or refugees) over generations or large amounts of time. Oftentimes, the experience of leaving one’s home (whether by a conscious decision or forced by violence and war) is a traumatic experience that can be passed on through generations. When working with immigrants and refugees of all ages and experiences, it’s important to be aware of historical trauma. Whether an individual has recently become an immigrant or refugee in the United States, or has lived in the United States for a large amount of time as an immigrant or refugee, understanding historical trauma can offer insight into their future and help with understanding their current health and wellness.

Recognize social and emotional difficulties that are specific to immigrant and refugee communities.

One of the primary issues for both immigrants and refugees is adapting to resettlement once inside the United States. Resettlement is complex and often comes with a host of social and emotional difficulties that can impact individuals’ daily life. Immigrants and refugees may need anything and everything from basic needs support to trauma-informed and mental health care. Develop an expertise on the local resources that are available for immigrants and refugees in your area and keep in mind that they must be accessible to those communities.

Stay updated on specific policies related to immigrants and refugees.

If you are working with immigrants or refugees it’s important to be well-versed on

current immigrant or refugee policies including immigrants or refugee rights, family

visitation, family separation and family reunification. Depending on the current political

administration, these may be changing frequently, so stay as up-to-date on relevant news

and policies regarding immigrants and refugees as you can.

Immigrants and refugees are a vital part of the United States community. These individuals help make the United States a flourishing, strong and proud nation. Recognizing these best practices will better aid the needs of these communities, ultimately doing a part to better these individuals’ lives within the United States.

If you are interested in learning more about historical trauma and working with immigrants and refugees, and live in the Chicago area, check out this upcoming workshop (under the “Workshop” tab) on September 20th hosted at DePaul University. The deadline for signing up is September 17th, so make sure you sign up before then!

Learn more about cultural diversity, inclusivity and humility services by checking out resources and training provided by MCS Chicago.

Contributing Writer: Brittany A. Hamilton

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