The United States today has approximately 39.9 million immigrants—the largest number in its history. As a nation of immigrants, the United States has successfully negotiated larger proportions of newcomers in its past and is far from alone among postindustrial countries in experiencing a growth in immigration in recent decades. Notably, nearly three quarters of the foreign-born are naturalized citizens or authorized noncitizens. One in five persons currently residing in the United States is a first- or second-generation immigrant, and nearly a quarter of children under the age of 18 have an immigrant parent. As such, immigrants and the second generation have become a significant part of our national tapestry.
While immigrants to the United States come from all over the world, in the last decades migration has primarily originated from Latin America, the Caribbean, and Asia. One third of the foreign-born population in the United States is from Mexico, and a total of 55% originate from Latin America. The four states with the largest numbers of immigrants (California, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Texas) have already become
“majority/minority” (less than 50% White) states.
Just as this demographic transformation is rapidly unfolding, the United States is facing international, domestic, and economic crises. Like other historical economic downturns, the current recession has served as a catalyst to make immigration a divisive social and political issue. Across the nation, immigrants have become the subject of negative media coverage, hate crimes, and exclusionary political legislation. Given the demographic growth, however, we now face an “integration imperative” —not only for the well-being of this new population but also for that of the nation’s social and economic future.
Psychologists are, and increasingly will be, serving immigrant adults and their children in a variety of settings, including schools, community centers, clinics, and hospitals, and thus should be aware of this complex demographic transformation and consider its implications as citizens, practitioners, researchers, and faculty.
The report aims specifically to describe this diverse population and address the psychological experience of immigration, considering factors that impede and facilitate adjustment.
The report, which includes the recent theoretical and empirical literature on immigrants:
(a) raises awareness about this growing (but poorly understood) population;
(b) derives evidence-informed recommendations for the provision of psychological services for the immigrant-origin population; and
(c) makes recommendations for the advancement of training, research, and policy efforts for immigrant children, adults, older adults, and families.
Summary of Recommendations
To significantly improve and enhance education and training opportunities related to immigrant issues for students in psychology and encourage education and training for, and retention of, professionals who work with immigrant adults and children across the lifespan, the task force recommends that APA:
– Promote education and training on methods to ensure research and assessment are conducted in a culturally competent manner.
– Continue to promote psychology education and training in multicultural practice and
– Advocate for federal policy initiatives that support education and training opportunities in psychology to work with diverse populations.
– Encourage continuing education programs for practicing psychologists and mental health professionals that include information on multicultural practice and the importance of effective collaboration between psychologists and interdisciplinary colleagues, resource agencies, community leaders, paraprofessionals, and cultural brokers to address the needs and strengths of immigrant-origin individuals and their families across the life span.
– Provide training and effective supports to teachers and other service providers in the fields serving immigrant populations, including prejudice reduction.
– Support policies and practices in testing and assessment of immigrant-origin.