Many social workers are concerned about the new AZ law that requires state employees to report undocumented persons to the INS. This legal brief below is a resource compiled by the NASW Office of General Counsel and has been published as the January 2010 Legal Issue of the Month.
Social workers may have a general concept of immigration requirements, but this area of law is both complex and volatile. U.S. laws and policies affecting the status of immigrants have evolved over time in response to various social, political and economic pressures. More recently, in the wake of welfare reform in the 1990s, and in the post 9/11 era, U.S. immigration policy has returned to an exclusionary focus that has turned toward conflating criminality and undocumented immigration status. Although immigration laws are within the exclusive purview of the federal government, a number of states have attempted to address concerns about violations of immigration law by residents bypassing various exclusionary measures. This may create legal questions and ethical dilemmas for social workers who work in programs or areas serving immigrants. When social workers are used as enforcers of exclusionary government policies to the extent of “turning in” violators, valid questions may be raised about the extent a social worker may meet both legal and ethical obligations. This Legal Issue of the Month article reviews recent legal policy as enacted by U.S. Congress, the state of Arizona and related interpretations of the law regarding immigrants’ eligibility for public benefits, documentation and reporting requirements.