How Many Immigrant-Friendly Communities Are in the United States? Classifying the Policy Stream

Dec 7, 2021

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Dramatic federal immigration policy proposals and executive actions appear to be a reaction to state and local governments that have taken leadership in responding to immigration. Some local governments have endorsed welcoming immigrants to stabilize high-poverty urban neighborhoods and to enhance regional economic development. Others embrace immigrant incorporation consistent with the social work grand challenge to achieve equal opportunity and justice.

A recent issue of the journal Social Work Research, co-published by Oxford University Press and NASW Press, includes an article that highlights research into this concern.

This research estimates the number of immigrant-friendly cities and counties in the United States. To generate this estimate, authors prepared a local government policy scan of all municipalities and counties in the United States with a population of more than 500 persons to identify policies designed to recruit or specifically serve immigrants. Authors also categorized these immigrant-friendly policies on a continuum ranging from rhetoric to outreach, integration, and facilitation.

Only 7% of cities and 6% of counties were found to have immigrant-friendly policy. However, when taking population into account, nearly half of all people in the municipal sample live in a place with an immigrant-friendly policy. The article concludes with the discussion of the implications for social policy and social work practice.


The authors:

  • Richard J. Smith, PhD, MFA, MSW, professor, School of Social Work, Wayne State University
  • Catherine Schmitt-Sands, PhD, senior lecturer of global supply chain management, Mike Ilitch School of Business, Wayne State University.


The journal Social Work is a benefit of NASW membership. It is available online or, at a member’s request, in print. Children & Schools, Health & Social Work and Social Work Research are available by subscription at a discounted rate for NASW members, either online or in print. You can find out more about the journals and subscriptions at this link.