Academic journal article Journal of Social Work Education

Why It Is Important for Social Work Educators to Oppose Racist-Based Anti-Immigration Legislation

Academic journal article Journal of Social Work Education

Why It Is Important for Social Work Educators to Oppose Racist-Based Anti-Immigration Legislation

Article excerpt

IN THE PAST FEW MONTHS the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) has been in the middle of a controversy concerning the association's response to HB 87, Georgia's Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011. This bill, just one of many Arizona SB 1070 copycat "states' rights" immigration bills, was enacted several months before the Annual Program Meeting (APM) held in Atlanta, GA. Given CSWE's presence in Georgia for the APM, CSWE leadership was petitioned to take a clear and unambiguous position of opposition to this racism-inspired law because it is anathema to the values of the social work profession. Instead, the leadership of CSWE assumed a position of "neutrality." CSWE's inaction on this issue was based on leadership's policy that CSWE takes positions on national rather than state matters coupled with the perception of this issue as a practice issue and not consistent with the association's educational mission. Furthermore, there was a concern that taking advocacy positions on controversial issues might cause accusations from conservative educational groups such as the National Association of Scholars to resurface and renew threats to CSWE's accreditation standing and possibly its nonprofit tax status.

Many members of CSWE were deeply chagrined by the association's inaction on this issue. As disappointing as this inaction is for many of us, this debate, additionally, brings to light several issues that go well beyond any individual state immigration law. Albeit, taking positions on important issues such as HB 87, or any other racist, socially unjust practice, is not to be diminished because such positions are statements that demonstrate consistency between the profession's espoused values and actions. In this light, ideological neutrality and preemptive compromise to protect our educational mission or nonprofit tax status from external controversy are not consistent with our profession's mandate to promote social justice. The position that the issue is more appropriately a practice issue and not consistent with CSWE's educational mission creates a separation between practice and education that is counter to our traditional educational pedagogy and current Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS), which place a premium on practice, or at least practicum, as our signature pedagogy. CSWE's actions on this issue polarized the options for action, prevented exploration of meaningful alternatives, and signal the association's priorities.

A lingering and perhaps more important question this debate has brought to mind is, just how prepared is the social work profession to work effectively with Latinos? In our opinion, CSWE's failure to grasp the profundity of this issue suggests that it does not understand the relationship between immigration issues and human rights and how integral immigration issues are to the sociopolitical and economic realities of the Latino community, nor the far-reaching impact on our students, recruitment of future students, and workforce development for the profession.

Clearly, the concern about immigration is greater than any single immigration law--it is about human rights. Anti-immigration laws that have been enacted in places such as Arizona, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, and Utah are designed to intimidate, humiliate, and traumatize not only those they are intended to control but also the families, friends, and others who befriend or provide services to undocumented individuals. These laws deny individuals the very rights that CSWE recognizes as basic human rights "regardless of position in society" in its accreditation standards: "an adequate standard of living, health care, and education" (CSWE, 2008, Educational Policy 2.1.5). Furthermore, in its statement of opposition to Arizona SB 1070, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) stated the law will criminalize immigrants, endanger human rights and threaten the civil liberties of citizens and immigrants (NASW, 2010). …

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