Patching Together Communities
Originally posted by Karin Dryhurst at Next American City. Karin is blogging a conference on Women’s Health and Cities for the magazine.
Cities in the South face both rapid population growth and a striking demographic shift as immigrants create new gateway cities.
Integrating new immigrant communities may appear to be a cultural problem. But incorporating immigrants into the social fabric of growing cities has both economic and health implications.
Lynn Weber of the Women's Well-Being Initiative in Columbia, S.C., found that the isolation of Mexican immigrants in West Columbia created barriers to job opportunities, social services, and healthy living.
Language barriers contributed to both stymied employment and social isolation. Even immigrants who wish to learn English in order to obtain better jobs often had conflicting work schedules, keeping them in low-wage work and making communication with neighbors difficult.
Immigrants also faced physical isolation. Many immigrants lack a driver's license. And without reliable public transportation in West Columbia, many are unable to reach jobs and social services.
The social and physical isolation of immigrants can also lead to poor health outcomes, like increased alcohol and drug abuse among men and overweight children without access to recreational activities.
National immigration policy has worsened the isolation faced by immigrants. But local policymakers can address these implications by integrating immigrants through more flexible English-language programs, municipal IDs and public transportation, and community health programs that disregard immigration status.