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“We Don’t Turn Away Families”: Support for Immigrant Families with Young Children During and After the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Immigration policies shape access to services and are linked to immigrant family health. Due to the growth of immigrant families, a shift to local solutions advancing equitable access to services is needed to improve immigrant health. Informed by qualitative data collected from 23 key stakeholders of organizational and government organizations, this study examines community responses to the needs of immigrant families along the US–Mexico border during COVID-19. Participants described two overarching themes: (1) multiple challenges worsened by COVID-19 and (2) innovative strategies responding to increased services needed among immigrant families. Results advance COVID-19 response strategies: (1) community organizing and empowerment, (2) immigrant inclusion in community agency practices, (3) development of community partnerships centered on immigrants, and (4) benefits of local sanctuary policies. Findings suggest local-level solutions, inclusive of immigrant community voices, can mitigate structural barriers and ensure equitable access to services addressing the health and social needs of immigrant families.

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We would like to extend appreciation and gratitude to the participants of this study and for the work they conduct daily on behalf of immigrant families.


This study was partially supported by funding from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation (Co-PI: Megan Finno-Velasquez).

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Authors and Affiliations



Carolina Villamil Grest and Megan Finno-Velasquez contributed to the study’s conceptualization and design. All authors contributed to the study analysis. The first manuscript draft was prepared by Carolina Villamil Grest and all authors commented on subsequent versions of the manuscript. Megan Finno-Velasquez provided overall supervision of the study and methodology. Sophia Sepp provided project administration and data curation. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Carolina Villamil Grest.

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This study was approved by the Institutional Review Board of New Mexico State University. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participant included in this study.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Villamil Grest, C., Finno-Velasquez, M., Lopez, A. et al. “We Don’t Turn Away Families”: Support for Immigrant Families with Young Children During and After the COVID-19 Pandemic. J. Hum. Rights Soc. Work 8, 348–358 (2023).

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