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Items arranged in order of publication date. Scroll down for all entries. Selection does not necessarily imply endorsement of findings or research methodology by Diversity Dynamics and its partner organizations. We regret that we may not be able to repair broken links promptly.

The studies in this collection cover topics such as the prevalence of disability within immigrant and refugee populations, perceptions of disability within other cultures, and the effectiveness of traditional service providers in reaching immigrants and refugees with disabilities. The extent to which “double discrimination” (discrimination because of disability combined with discrimination because of immigration status) affects newcomers with disabilities is another important theme.  Many studies examine how strategies, such as “cultural brokering” or other culturally competent interventions, can reduce barriers to service access and full participation in the larger society. Researchers have also examined the plight of immigrants with disabilities or mental illness in immigrant detention facilities. 



Being an Immigrant with Disabilities,
Urban Institute, April 25, 2022, 23 pp.
Authors: Paola Echave & Dulce Gonzalez

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published detailed reports on the characteristics of adults with disabilities in the US, and its findings have shed light on types of disabilities by race and age group, little information is available on the prevalence of disability among the nonelderly immigrant adult population. This report is designed to fill that data gap -- an especially vital goal considering the importance of this kind of data in designing appropriate services and supports to immigrants with disabilities, a growing sub-set of the larger disability population. Although the term “double minority” is often used to describe immigrants with disabilities, the authors believe the term is a bit simplistic, as the obstacles facing immigrants with disabilities who belong to racial minorities and other marginalized communities may be even more formidable. Immigrant adults with disabilities are more likely to be employed than are US-born adults with disabilities, a situation probably resulting from their lack of eligibility for federal and state assistance programs. Often working in low-paying and physically demanding jobs, their disabilities are likely to worsen over time, and for immigrants without disabilities, the chances of acquiring a disability are high. The authors found that just under 6 percent of immigrants ages 18 to 64 have a disability, making this group about half as likely as US-born nonelderly adults to report a disability. However, consistent with their exposure to greater risk of injury, rates of disability tend to increase as immigrants advance in age. The report provides a full summary of the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of working-age immigrants with disabilities.

ICE’s Deadly Practice of Abandoning Immigrants with Disabilities and Mental Illnesses on the Street,
Vera Institute, September 2021, 20 pp.
Author: Erica Bryant

In the United States, individuals who have been declared mentally incompetent are consistently dismissed from immigration detention facilities without prescribed medication, transportation assistance, or the ability to contact a lawyer or family member. Moreover, unsafe releases of immigrants with cognitive disabilities and mental illnesses from Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) custody have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Martin Vargas Arellano, a terminally ill detainee who died as a result of being secretly released from ICE facilities, brought national attention to this pervasive issue in 2020. Following Arellano’s death, the Board of Immigration Appeals issued a statement asserting that the judge who denied him relief failed to abide by the United Nations Convention against Torture. As a result of cases like Arellano’s, advocates for detained or medically vulnerable people argue that detention should not be the default option. Instead, members of these groups should be allowed to wait for immigration court proceedings in reasonable community accommodations. Advocates also urge ICE to develop a consistent policy and practice for the release of individuals with complex mental health needs from immigration detention. (Flora Meng for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

Destigmatizing Disability in the Law of Immigration Admissions,
Social Science Research Network, April 21, 2020, 20 pp,.
Author: Medha D. Makhlouf

Throughout the history of immigration law, individuals with disabilities have faced multiple barriers for entry into the United States. This study outlines the myriad ways in which people with disabilities have been denied admission to the U.S., ranging from historic quota systems to “public charge” requirements, i.e. the likelihood of becoming dependent on the government for support. The author proposes “adopting a destigmatizing account of disablement in the context of immigration admissions” by treating “disablement as a ‘mere difference’ as opposed to a ‘bad difference’” in immigration law. The article notes that early immigration law beginning in 1882 included restrictions for admitting individuals with various disabilities, reflecting general fears of physical and mental disorders and the sinister ideology of eugenics present in American society at the time. Societal ideas surrounding disability as an individual detriment to the wellbeing of the country continue to be reflected in current immigration law. Green card applicants require a medical exam in order to indicate “whether the applicant has a physical or mental health condition that may make her inadmissible under any of the grounds of inadmissibility.” In February 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released new public charge guidelines, stating that an individual should be deemed “inadmissible” if the person is “unable to support themselves” and may become reliant on state and federal welfare programs. Individuals with disabilities benefit from the use of various government-run health programs to address their specific needs. The author warns that the public charge rule disproportionately impacts disabled individuals. It proposes the elimination of language referring to “physical or mental disorder” from the statute and framing disability as "a valued form of diversity.” (Mia Fasano for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

Effect of Immigration on Depression among Older Natives in Western Europe,
IZA Institute of Labor Economics, Discussion Paper No. 12829, December 2019, 39 pp.
Authors: José J. Escarce & Lorenzo Rocco

Immigration has a favorable effect on clinical depression levels among elderly, native populations of developed countries. This study finds a correlation between higher rates of immigration and improved mental health among native-born senior citizens because immigrants tend to provide personal care services for the elderly. The authors studied men and women ages 65 to 80 in five Western European countries using data from the Study of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe. The report notes that a higher level of immigrants increases the supply and lowers the cost of personal and household services – outcomes which enhance the mobility of seniors and increase their social integration in community activities. The authors suggest that robust immigration levels in a particular community greatly reduce symptoms of depression and the likelihood of having clinical depression. The authors recognize that while they were able to establish a correlation between immigration and positive mental health outcome among the native-born elderly, more research is necessary to support their claims regarding the mechanisms for this correlation. (Lydia Grinnell for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute)

There is No Safety Here:  The Dangers for People with Mental Illness and Other Disabilities in Immigration Detention at GEO Group’s Adelanto ICE Processing Center,
Disability Rights California, March 2019, 58 pp.
Authors: Aaron J. Fischer et al

One of the largest immigrant detention facilities in the country (and the largest in the State of California) is the Adelanto detention facility in the City of Adelanto in San Bernandino County. Operated by the GEO Group, a private contractor, the facility houses an average detainee population of almost 2,000.  Since the Trump administration ended prosecutorial discretion and ramped-up immigration enforcement, the number of detainees with disabilities or mental illness in federal detention facilities has risen, raising questions as to whether these facilities are following federal guidelines in treating this population. Media reports and the government’s own internal investigative reports suggest widespread abuse of detainees with disabilities. This situation prompted Disability Rights California (DRC), the state designated protection and advocacy organization for people with disabilities, to undertake an investigation of conditions at the Adelanto facility. DRC conducted four site visits to Adelanto and interviewed over 100 detainees as part of its investigation. They concluded that people held at Adelanto are subject to punitive, prison-like conditions that harm people with disabilities. Moreover, Adelanto has an inadequate mental health care medical health care system, made worse by the facility’s harsh and counter-therapeutic practices. The investigators also found that the GEO group significantly underreported data on the number of suicide attempts at the facility. The investigators found that Adelanto’s system fails to comply with disability antidiscrimination laws, as well as with ICE’s own detention standards regarding the treatment of people with disabilities. 

The Aging Apple: Older Immigrants a Rising Share of New York's Seniors,
Center for an Urban Future, May, 2017, 10 pp.
Author: Christian González-Rivera
This data brief updates an earlier (2013) report on New York's immigrant senior population. Immigrant seniors now represent an even larger share of the total senior population in the city, reaching almost 50 percent of the total (up from 46 percent in 2010).  The data brief reports trends in the senior population by nativity for the five boroughs, for particular neighborhoods, and for selected countries of origin. As a group, immigrant seniors are 1.5 times as likely as native-born seniors to be poor, and almost two out of three speak English less than very well, creating challenges for organizations trying to serve them effectively. The median income of immigrant seniors citywide is $10,800, roughly half that of native-born seniors, which is $20,800. One reason for the gap is the fact that 33 percent of older immigrants do not qualify to receive Social Security benefits, compared to 17 percent of native-born seniors.

The New Face of New York's Seniors,
Center for an Urban Future, July, 2013, 36 pp.
Author: Christian Gonzalez-Rivera
The New Face of New York's Seniors
 by the Center for an Urban Future shows that, in the nation's most populous and diverse city, immigrant seniors are a surprisingly large share of the aging population. Census data shows that one in 10 older immigrants in the country calls New York City home. Immigrants comprise nearly half a million, or 46 percent, of the city's senior population. Indeed, the median age of the city's immigrant population (43) is 14 years higher than that of the native-born population (29). Informed by interviews with over 50 people active in the field of senior services, the report argues that the city is not devoting sufficient attention to the health and well-being of its immigrant population. Immigrant seniors have lower incomes, less in retirement savings, and receive fewer benefits from Social Security and Medicare. Their limited English proficiency prevents them from accessing adequate healthcare, housing and even meals appropriate to their religious beliefs or medical conditions. The authors recommend that the city prioritize outreach and service to immigrant seniors in its already commendable senior services programs. Such an initiative would include strategies for increasing the level of, and access to, government benefits; improving access to translators; taking advantage of technology to help older adults access services; updating city housing regulations to allow extended families to live together; funding library-based English language courses especially designed for the senior population; and funding capacity-building for, and service delivery by, promising immigrant community-based organizations.  (Denzil Mohammed) 

Senior Immigrants in the United States,
Migration Policy Institute, May 30, 2012, 10 pp.
After declining from 1960 to 1990, the number of older immigrants nearly doubled from 1990 to 2010.  The immigrant share of the elderly population in the U.S. is now 12 percent. This report provides a statistical portrait of the senior immigrant population, mostly drawn from national data sets. More than half of older immigrants were limited English proficient. Forty-two percent had less than a high school education, and 40 percent resided in low-income families, i.e. below 200 percent of the poverty line. Immigrants were also three times more likely to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) (12 percent vs. 4 percent for the native-born).

Systems Change for Greater Cultural Competence in the Pennsylvania Disability Service and Support Sector,
Diversity Dynamics, LLC, for the Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities Council, 2011, 91 pp.
This report concludes a two-year study of the responsiveness of the Pennsylvania disability service system to the needs and potential of immigrants and other culturally diverse individuals with disabilities. Through the use of surveys, focus groups, structured interviews, and a literature review, this report focuses on systems-level issues, traces the evolution of cultural competence as a concept, creates a framework of core principles to guide system reform, identifies model practices both in Pennsylvania and elsewhere in the country, and offers a series of recommendations for consideration by public and private entities in the Commonwealth. The report devotes special attention to the newer cultural and linguistic groups that have settled in Pennsylvania over the last 25 years.

Do Cultural Competency Interventions Work?  A Systematic Review on Improving Rehabilitation Outcomes for Ethnically and Linguistically Diverse Individuals with Disabilities,
National Center for the Dissemination of Disability Research, Technical Brief No. 31, 2011, 12 pp.
This brief reports on a systematic review of disability-related empirical research bearing upon the efficacy of "cultural competency interventions." The team of nine researchers identified a total of 3,022 titles and abstracts of potentially relevant studies published between 1980 and the present. Only 22 studies, however, met the rigorous criteria for inclusion in the analysis, one of which was the use of control groups. Based on the analysis of these 22 studies, the researchers conclude that "culturally adapted interventions do improve rehabilitation outcomes for minority and immigrant individuals..."

Disability and Displacement, 
Special Issue of Forced Migration Review, July, 2010, 44 pp
This issue is intended to address the neglect of disability among the world's 42 million displaced people. Twenty-six articles examine conditions for people with disabilities in countries of origin or first asylum, such as Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, and Yemen, as well as their experiences and opportunities in countries of resettlement, including the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and the United States. In part, the articles are designed to debunk the myth that there are few people with disabilities among displaced populations and to challenge the notion that accommodations are too costly or difficult to implement in crisis situations. The final article calls for the development of a "conclusion" (or consensus statement) on disability to provide operational guidance to staff of the UN High Commissioner on Refugees

The Use of Culturally Adapted Competency Interventions to Improve Rehabilitation Service Outcomes for Culturally Diverse Individuals with Disabilities
National Center for the Dissemination of Disability Research, November 2, 2009, 80 pp.

This review of 3,022 research studies published between 1980 and 2009 seeks to understand whether "the cultural competency training of rehabilitation providers translates into better outcomes for the clients or consumers of these services?"  There is ample evidence that such training improves the knowledge, attitudes, and skills of service providers, but few studies have attempted to assess the actual impact of culturally competent interventions on individuals with disabilities. In fact, only 22 studies met the rigorous criteria, including use of randomized control trials, set by the authors of this report.  These studies, however, pointed to statistically significant outcomes in four of five outcome measures. The authors conclude with a recommendation for additional evidence-based studies to test the efficacy of "specific training approaches and conceptual models..."

The Rehabilitation Provider's Guide to Cultures of the Foreign-Born
Center for International Rehabilitation Research Information and Exchange (CIRRIE), University of Buffalo, 2001-2008
The thirteen monographs in this series contain specific information about the cultural backgrounds of recent immigrants in the U.S., with special attention given to how disability and rehabilitation are viewed in each culture. The monographs cover the top ten countries of origin of the foreign-born population: Mexico, China, Philippines, India, Vietnam, Dominican Republic, Korea, El Salvador, Jamaica, and Cuba. There are additional monographs on the culture of Haiti and the Muslim perspective.

Resource Guide for Serving Refugees with Disabilities
United Sates Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, 2007, 139 pp.
This publication is intended primarily for resettlement workers needing to understand the disability service system in order to make appropriate referrals for recently arrived refugees. Content was developed based on input from focus groups and surveys. Sections include: a description of the disability legal and service framework in the U.S., services for adults with disabilities, services for children with disabilities, housing, assistive technology and other topics.

Latinos with Disabilities in the United States
The World Institute on Disability, 2006, 51 pp.

Perhaps the first national overview of the situation of Latinos with disabilities in the U.S., the report paints a bleak picture, finding "a strong reluctance to seek services" among Latinos, coupled with "slowness" on the part of service organizations to use culturally competent practices. Focusing primarily on vocational rehabilitation services, the authors discuss the cultural factors that impede access to services. The report includes profiles of successful programs that are bridging the disability service system and the Latino community. The report concludes with 13 "priorities for change," including "encourag(ing) diverse interpretations of independent living....adopt(ing) effective outreach methods...integrating culturally appealing messages...and educat(ing) Latino community leaders about disability issues."

Culturally Competent Disability Support: Putting It into Practice, A Review of the International and 
Australian Literature on Cultural Competence

Multicultural Disability Advocacy Association of New South Wales, 2004, 99 pp.
This international literature review focuses on individual practice and skills, as opposed to system and organizational change. The author discusses the relationship between critical thinking, "scientific mindedness," ethnographic approaches and cultural competence, and calls attention to the theme of "empowerment" which underpins much of the literature. A section of the report discusses strategies for engaging families and ethnic communities in supporting individuals with disabilities. Finally, the author cites examples of effective outreach efforts to ethnic communities, including messaging strategies and media selection.

Cultural Brokering: Providing Culturally Competent Rehabilitation Services to Foreign-born Persons,
Center for International Rehabilitation Research Information and Exchange, University of Buffalo, 2001, 50 pp.
This monograph is offered as "a starting point to understanding and providing culturally sensitive care to foreign-born consumers" in the rehabilitation service system. The authors identify and describe the range of skills involved in functioning as an effective culture broker, present a three-stage intervention model, and recommend an assessment tool designed to elicit cultural information. The authors assume that cultural brokers will work as members of the rehabilitation service systems, rather than as outside advocates.

Disability and Access to Health and Support Services Among California's Immigrant Population
UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, January, 2000, 49 pp.
This report examines rates of disability and disability service utilization among California's immigrant population. Utilizing data from three supplements of the National Health Interview Survey of 1994, the researchers find that adult immigrants "are less likely than U.S. natives to report any activity limitation, difficulties in any activities of daily living (ADL's), difficulties in any instrumental activities of daily living (IADL's), and any days in bed..." Taking note of the lower socioeconomic status and educational levels of immigrants, the authors conclude that the so-called "epidemiological paradox" in health status, i.e. lower mortality rates despite higher known risks for poor health, also applies to disabilities.

Lift Every Voice: Modernizing Disability Policies and Programs to Serve a Diverse Nation,
National Council on Disability (NCD), 1999, 137 pp
Noting that a "shameful wall of exclusion" continues to exist for people with disabilities from diverse communities, the authors of this report update an earlier 1993 NCD study on the plight of minority group members with disabilities. Informed by a public hearing in English, Spanish, and Cantonese held in San Francisco, and other community forums in Atlanta and New Orleans, the report uses the testimony of participants to highlight the multiple barriers faced by diverse people with disabilities. Among the problems noted in the report is the tendency of some employers to practice "double discrimination" - not only showing reluctance to hire persons with disabilities, but also being especially dismissive of disabled applicants with foreign accents. The report also laments the small numbers of employees from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds employed in state and private disability service organizations, and urges partnerships with organizations, such as religious organizations and community-based organizations, that form part of the "internal social structure" of ethnic and minority communities. The report places great emphasis on the importance of "culturally appropriate outreach" and urges federal agencies with responsibility for services to people with disabilities to convene an interagency team to mount a "large-scale outreach and training program" to inform community members of available supports and services.