This year I chose immigration as the focus of one of my presidential initiatives and as a theme for APA’s Annual Convention. Why immigration? Psychology has a long and respected history in research, and in clinical and academic settings working with special populations across a wide spectrum of attributes, including age, gender, race and sexual orientation, among
others. As our nation becomes increasingly diverse, psychology must remain committed to understanding our changing demographics.
Today, nearly 23 percent of people under age 18 have immigrant parents, but by 2030 that number is projected to grow to 30 percent. These statistics illustrate the need to recognize the implications of these demographic changes for clinicians, researchers and academics alike.
After consulting with many APA members, I decided a comprehensive review was necessary to articulate what psychology knows about immigration, as well as what we as a science and profession need to learn. The APA Presidential Task Force on Immigration has conducted an evidence-based examination of the unique contributions that psychology and APA can offer to this increasingly relevant issue facing our nation.
What do psychologists have to contribute to the discourse on immigration? Psychologists advance scientific research and promote the delivery of culturally and linguistically appropriate services. We also educate and train professionals who work with immigrants, and inform the development and implementation of sound public policy. Increasingly, psychologists are and will be serving immigrants across the lifespan in a variety of settings including schools, community centers, clinics and hospitals. Psychologists should understand the complexities of these issues and consider their implications for citizens, practitioners, researchers and faculty.
The APA Presidential Task Force on Immigration is developing an evidence-based report that addresses the psychological factors related to the immigration experience, with particular attention to the mental and behavioral health needs of immigrants across the lifespan. The report will review the prevalence of immigrants, including how young people of immigrant origins are becoming a significant part of our national tapestry. The report will provide an overview of the new wave of immigration, briefly considering the principal motivations that propel migration, as well as demographic profiles of the U.S. immigrant population. The report will also examine the effects of acculturation, prejudice/discrimination and immigration policy on individuals, families and society, and will consider a variety of vulnerable populations across several contexts.
I selected six exemplary individuals to serve on this task force: Carola Suarez-Orozco, PhD, chair; Dina Birman, PhD; J. Manuel Casas, PhD; Nadine Nakamura, PhD; Pratyusha Tummala-Narra, PhD; and Michael Zárate, PhD. They have worked diligently to produce a report that has undergone review by several groups (an advisory committee, members of APA boards and committees, and various APA divisions).
The report will be further revised before it is presented to APA’s Council of Representatives in February.
In the meantime, we have numerous cutting-edge sessions on immigration at APA’s convention. They include:
- “Developmental Issues in Immigration,” Friday, Aug. 5, 10 a.m.– noon.
- “Humanizing the Dehumanized — Psychological Implications of the Immigration Experience,” Friday, Aug. 5, noon–2 p.m.
- “Borders and Margins — Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Immigrant Experience,” Friday, Aug. 5, 4–6 p.m.
- “Working with Immigrant Families across the Life Span — Insights and Challenges,” Saturday, Aug. 6, 10 a.m.–noon.
- “Immigrant Family Psychology — Innovative Clinical and Research Issues,” Saturday, Aug. 6, 1–2 p.m.
- “Social Psychology Perspectives on Immigration and Acculturation,” Sunday, Aug. 7, 9–11 a.m.
Both the immigration task force report and the convention programs will give psychologists more insight into this growing component of our increasingly diverse society.