Abstract under review:

Local responses in new destination communities: Action, research, and advocacy for immigrant wellbeing from the Heartland of America

The demographic composition of the United States is changing, and immigrants are an increasing proportion of the population. Although border States house the largest number of immigrants, the heartland States have experienced some of the largest percent change in immigrant populations; for example, Iowa’s immigrant population grew by 19.5% between 2010-2017.  Like many communities across the U.S., immigrants in Iowa are experiencing heightened immigration enforcement and racialized exclusion, with implications for wellbeing. Creative community-driven responses to these stressors have emerged in Iowa’s predominately rural white context. In 2017, a multidisciplinary group of University of Iowa faculty members and graduate students focused on immigrant and refugee wellbeing established a research and practice group to share experiences and work on programmatic and research initiatives.  Members of this group collaborated with organizations across Iowa to document and support community-led responses; use research to strengthen the evidence base of impacts on wellbeing; and implement advocacy interventions to enhance voice and reduce disparities. Examples include: legal preparedness plans for mixed-status families, culturally appropriate maternal care for refugees, evaluation of health implications of community efforts to pay immigration bond for low-income immigrants, assessment of disparities in worker’s compensation claims for immigrant workers, exploring  the intersection of education and U.S. immigration policies, linkages between literacy and health; and provision of in home mental health support for refugees. We highlight these projects as examples of meaningful and sustainable engagement occurring across the heartland; and as a model for uplifting whole communities across the U.S, through participation and solidarity. 

Learning outcomes:

  • Describe the integrative of framework guiding analysis immigrant and refugee wellbeing in Iowa.
  • Identify programs implemented in Iowa to enhance voice of immigrant communities and reduce disparities.
  • Explain engagement of academic faculty and students with community-based initiatives.
  • Discuss implications for research and practice in ‘new destination’ communities.