Community Practice in a Context of Precarious Immigration Status

Hanley, Jill; Lenet, Jaime; Gal, Sigalit (2020)

Todd S., Drolet J. (eds) Community Practice and Social Development in Social Work. Social Work

Singapore: Springer | 1-21

As the global movement of people reaches unprecedented levels, Western governments are increasingly obsessed with border enforcement and migration management. This has resulted in the creation of complex and ever-changing immigration systems, contributing to the proliferation of new and complicated categories of migration status. Increasing numbers of migrants are finding themselves with precarious forms of immigration status and/or no status at all. People in this situation constantly live with the threat of criminalization and deportation – a situation well-documented to have serious economic, social, and health consequences for individuals and communities.

What then of community organizing and community development with people who live under the specter of such threats? Scholarship on community organizing has generally tended to overlook the needs and activism of this population and/or to imply that organizing with precarious and non-status migrants is either practically too difficult or ethically too risky. This chapter challenges the notion that precarious and non-status migrants do not or should not organize and provide insight into the particularities of social work with this community. We begin by looking at how literature describes the risks and challenges associated with organizing this population. We then review the findings of an empirical study conducted in Montreal, shedding light on the forms of individual support, community organizing, and policy advocacy that take place among precarious and non-status migrants. We conclude with a discussion of the importance of organizing with this community and on methods for maximizing their power while minimizing the risk of detention and deportation.