Social Work Practice with Immigrants and Refugees

By Pallassana R. Balgopal | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
SOCIAL WORK PRACTICE WITH
LATINO AMERICAN IMMIGRANTS
John F. Longres and Davis G. Patterson

The 1990 census recorded more than 22 million persons designated as Hispanic. 1 This represents a huge increase, since as recently as 1982 the Census Bureau estimated this population at only 14 million. Because of rising immigration rates, it is projected that Latinos, who now represent 8 percent of the labor force, will represent 12 percent by the year 2010 (Fix and Passel 1994). By the year 2020, they are projected to be the largest ethnic minority group, surpassing the number of African Americans.

The purpose of this chapter is to lay the foundation for competent social work practice with Latino American individuals, families, and communities. We build this foundation on three central points: First, we believe that there is no one Hispanic or Latino community. Indeed, when working with clients, social workers may find the terms Latino and Hispanic highly inappropriate. Instead, most Latinos identify with a particular Latin American nation. Mexicanorigin people make up the largest number, yet there are vast generational and regional differences among them. Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and people from an additional twenty-odd distinct Central and South American nations also comprise this group. Although most people believe that the term Latino refers only to immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries, although some include nonSpanish-speaking immigrants from Brazil and other parts of Central and South America (Castrex 1994). Second, we believe that social workers must understand the larger societal context of their practice. To work with Latinos is to enter into the politics of immigration, race relations, and ethnic stratification, that is, the quest for social and economic security against the obstacles posed by

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