Immigrant integration practices examined in London, Paris and Brussels
Malden, Paris, London and Brussels all share one important feature. They are all home to innovative programs for immigrants and refugees.
This is what students at the Boston College (BC) Graduate School of Social Work discovered on a cross-continental, fact-finding mission to develop immigrant integration recommendations.
Led by Dr. Westy Egmont, president of the International Institute of Boston, 12 master’s students made their first stop in Malden on July 19, 2011. They toured The Immigrant Learning Center, Inc. (ILC) before jetting off to London’s Jesuit Refugee Services, Brussels’ Foyer and various United Nations and government offices in Paris.
The students learned how our direct-service program assists immigrants not only with English language learning but also with Western cultural practices, job market navigation and the citizenship test. They visited classes, toured the IBM/Verizon Computer Lab and sat in on a theater class where they heard personal stories from Iranian, Colombian and Vietnamese students.
On the fourth floor, Dr. Marcia Drew Hohn, director of The ILC Public Education Institute, guided the BC students through the Institute’s research. She also gave a lesson in immigration legislation.
The students were quick note-takers, using The ILC’s example to compare and evaluate the other organizations they were about to visit.
Two months later, on September 23, 2011, the students shared their findings with immigration experts at the Massachusetts Office of Refugees and Immigrants in Boston.
In attendance were Deniz Riordan, district director, U.S. Office of Citizenship and Immigration Services; Eva Millona, executive director, Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition; Juan Vega, president and CEO, Centro Latino, Inc. and The ILC Public Education Institute’s Dr. Hohn, assistant director Denzil Mohammed and director of communications Karen E. Glover.
Each BC student recommended an integration initiative based on practices at the sites they visited. These included more multi-service and “one-stop centers,” cultural mediators to encourage understanding and tolerance, and a new definition of “citizenship.”
Dr. Egmont said he was extremely satisfied with the outcome of this student trip, his first such excursion, and he plans to repeat this trip with future social work students.