Immigrant Families Initiative
Over the past four years, the Foundation has traveled across South Carolina to conduct Listening Sessions to hear first-hand the stories of individuals and communities impacted by poverty. Aware of how often Latino immigrant voices go unheard, Listening Sessions were hosted with Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach Services and PASOs to listen first-hand and honor the stories, contributions, opportunities and barriers to move out of poverty faced by the growing Latino population in the South Carolina.
As an outgrowth of the needs we heard at the Listening Sessions and from other organizations, the Foundation embarked upon additional research and released a Research Brief about Latino immigrant families in South Carolina in February 2013. Authored by Foundation Senior Research Director, Dr. Stephanie Cooper-Lewter, the brief addressed a broad range of issues and challenges facing the Latino population including health, education, economic hardship, family structure and legal matters.
In June 2013, the Foundation welcomed researchers from the Migration Policy Institute, North Carolina Chapel Hill and the Urban Institute to conduct interviews in South Carolina as part of a Federal research study on the implications of immigrant
enforcement activities on the well-being of children in immigrant families. The study is funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services, Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. The Foundation hosted the three-member research team who selected South Carolina as one of five sites from across the nation because of the rural landscape and unique political dynamics.
In July 2013, the Foundation visited Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF) to conduct a Listening Session. SAF addresses the needs of poor South Carolina farmworkers and their families by linking them to available health, education and legal resources in the community. In South Carolina, like many other regions of the country, many farmworkers are Latino. Some farmworkers are undocumented while others work through the H2A program, a program which allows foreign “guest workers” to perform seasonal farm work under a temporary work visa designed for agricultural workers in the United States. Migrant farmworkers often receive low wages and have few protections as one farmworker shared, “This work is really hard. I do this every day so I can provide for my family.”
In order for the citizens of South Carolina to compete economically, culturally-responsive and culturally-appropriate strategies that foster family resilience and strengthen immigrant families are needed. The Foundation is committed to supporting efforts that uplift and support immigrant families across the state.