July 15, 2008
Contact: Michelle Mittelstadt
New MPI Report Assesses Immigrant Associations’ Role
in a New Light
WASHINGTON – With global migration rates at historic highs,
the informal associations that immigrants create for social,
economic development and political empowerment purposes are becoming
more numerous and better networked. Though much of the policy
and research focus on the immigrant organizations, known as hometown
associations, is on their development potential for their home
countries, a new Migration Policy Institute (MPI) report concludes
that the groups play an important – and underexamined – role
in immigrant integration.
Government policies, both in immigrant-sending
and immigrant-receiving countries, have concentrated on the economic
development aspects of hometown associations (HTAs), which are
typically informal, volunteer organizations.
Many hometown associations,
however, play a valuable role helping immigrants integrate into
their new society. In addition to disseminating information on
useful support services for immigrants, many HTAs offer their
members language classes, day care and citizenship education.
analysis shows that policymakers should not view immigrants’ international
economic development and domestic integration objectives as competing priorities,” said
MPI Senior Policy Analyst Will Somerville, who authored the report with Jamie
Durana and Aaron Matteo Terrazas.
The associations can be helpful mechanisms for
immigrant socialization, acting as organized points of contact
and coordination between the immigrants, the host government
and other institutions.
Hometown associations’ immigrant-integration
capacity could be strengthened with limited, collaborative interventions
by government and non-government partners – for
example, by offering leadership training, outreach to immigrant
communities or improved government services for immigrants.
report recommends increased utilization of HTA outreach and services.
Noting the lack of data on associations’ existence and
operations, the report also recommends that organizations and
governments aiming to work with hometown associations undertake
a collaborative data collection effort to enhance possible partnerships.
help shore up and support migrant communities, who often find
themselves isolated and dispersed in their host countries. They
provide opportunities for migrants to come together, connect
with each other and form networks, helping migrants settle and
integrate into their new environment,” said Sukhvinder
Kaur Stubbs, chief executive of the Barrow Cadbury Trust, which
was a policy partner
on the project.
With global migration on the rise, the number
of HTAs appears to be increasing. The number of Mexican hometown
associations located in 25 U.S. states increased from 441 in
1998 to 623 five years later. There may be as many as 3,000 Mexican
HTAs operating in the United States by some estimates. The government
of El Salvador has compiled a database listing more than 268
Salvadoran associations around the world. And hometown associations
are emerging in communities where they did not previously exist,
as immigrants increasingly move beyond traditional gateway cities,
whether in the United States, England, Canada or other immigrant-destination
The report is available online at: www.migrationpolicy.org/pubs/Insight-HTAs-July08.pdf