Immigration Laws Could Hinder Social Workers

Everyday in East Texas immigrants are helped by social workers. They help the newcomers with transitions. Now there's a concern the political mood on immigration will make their job of helping people more difficult. Stephen F. Austin State University Social Work Director Dr. Linda Morales said, "It puts us in a real bind. Our primary concern is meeting the basic needs of whatever clients come to us."

Social workers provide the basic of needs to immigrants. They provide food, shelter and medical care, no questions asked. Morales explained, "Part of our code of ethics says that our concern is about any oppressed population and certainly many of our immigrants are oppressed, and have not been given everything they are needing and so it's what we're about."

With fears of "foreign invaders", proposed legislation goes so far to requiring social service agencies to ask clients their immigration status. Social service providers say they don't want their 'client-provider' relationship hindered. Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital's chief nursing official, Beth Knight said, "Right now we are just providing care and we don't care what their status is. We just want to provide the best care we can to all people."

But the federal government is enticing agencies such as hospitals. If the right questions aren't asked hospitals could lose government subsidies. The hospitals financial services director, Suzanne Thompson explained, "We're not actually able to ask the patient if they are an illegal immigrant. However, we can do some determination on the backside on whether or not they would qualify other additional programs here through the United States."

The President of the National Association of Social Workers, Dr. Elvira Craig de Silva doesn't want social service workers placed in the role of "de facto immigration investigators". That alone would go against the policy of so many service agencies. Morales said, "It depends on the agency they're in. Really they just try to meet the needs and often they just don't ask. And that puts them in a bind, should we ask or not."

Morales continues to instruct social service students to think of a person's needs. "What we teach our students is to look at what the needs are and just to see that children are here that their needs are met, people who are in medical crisis get their needs met and we do not focus on the legal issues."

Social workers will be pushing for fair immigration laws. East Texas social workers have the right senator to talk to concerning this issue. U.S. Senator John Cornyn is the chairman of the Immigration and Border Security subcommittee. This week Cornyn discussed the latest developments on border security and immigration reform with Nacogdoches leaders. At this point the discussion probably didn't center on the social workers' concerns. Their main goal is healthy families, no matter where they come from.