Global Social Work and Practice with Immigrants and Refugees

Immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers comprise over 38% of the population of New York City, representing the fastest growing population group reporting to the US census. Workers born outside of the United States represent 43% of New York City’s workforce and 70% of the direct care workforce in health, social service and mental health. These numbers are growing daily.

Global Social Work and Practice with Immigrants and Refugees (GSWPIR), as a Field of Practice (FOP) specialization, is defined by its mission to incorporate indigenous social work perspectives from around the globe – to inform learning and practice with families and communities wherever they are located, globally or in the US urban environment, with special attention to all forms of migration.

Why combine global social work with practice with immigrants and refugees? The twenty-first century is characterized by unprecedented levels of global interdependence in which people, communities and their institutions are affected by transnational forces on multiple levels. From climate change to political and economic adversity, these realities have called forth responses based on an increasing awareness of human interconnectedness, leading to migration both forced and voluntary. Environmental, economic, political and social policies taken in any one country affect people everywhere. Many families are transnational, whether children are living with grandparents who receive remittances in the country of origin or the grandparents themselves are participating in the global workforce that powers our social work institutions here in New York City. Some families are awaiting the papers necessary to bring members from abroad while others are saving whatever they can to “go home.” Still others are waiting to join family members forcibly deported to their country of origin. Therefore, the same basic competencies are required for practitioners working with people in any part of this process, whether overseas or in the US.

GSWPIR students will become aware of the differing discourses in this field, and the varied understandings of and responses to adversity in the context of internationally recognized standards of social justice and human rights. Social ecological theories and the approaches derived from them are central to the field. Students will learn how to define, analyze and collaborate with the communities within which they and their clients live and work. They will learn to apply methods derived from global experience. Textbooks by authors from around the globe, as well as current thinking on cross-cultural learning, will be used to assist this process.



Students who select the Global Social Work and Practice with Immigrants and Refugees Field of Practice Specialization develop a plan of study that includes the following requirements:

  • A second-year field practicum in a global, immigrant- and/or refugee-related placement in metropolitan New York;
  • Professional Seminar or Research I & II, with a project on a topic relevant to some aspect of global social work or practice with immigrants and refugees.

In addition, to be competent in this specialization, students must take one of the following courses:


SSW 797. 73 Introduction to Global Social Work Practice with Immigrants & Refugees
SSW 702.22 International Social Welfare Policy and Services
SSW 702.19 Immigrants and Refugees; Policies and Issues


In addition, students are encouraged to select one practice course from among the following:


SSW 791.88 Spirituality and Healing
SSW 798.02 Social Work and the Latino Community
SSW 791.71 Clinical Practice with Immigrants and Refugees
SSW 796.70 Social Work with Veterans and Military Service Members
SSW 791.57 Social Work with Victims of Violence
SSW 791.76 Social Work Practice w/ Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender People
SSW 797.60 Neighborhood Lab: Strengthening Community Capacity
SSW 798.10 Multicultural Social Work Practice
SSW 724.00 Clinical Practice 4: Trauma
SSW 724.00 Clinical Practice 4: Relational Therapy
SSW 791.75 Social Work and AIDS (if given)
SSW 791.58 Human Sexuality
SSW 796.61 Social Work Practice in School Settings
SSW 796.52 Social Work Practice with Workers and Their Families
SSW 724.00 Trauma and Resilience


Finally, students may choose one of the courses below to enhance their range as practitioners:


SSW 725 Casework for Non-Majors (must include work with immigrants, refugees, or asylum seekers)
SSW 735 Group Work for Non-Majors (group must include immigrants, refugees, or

asylum seekers)

SSW 747 Community Organization/Non-Majors (must focus on global or immigrant issues)
SSW 780 Administration for Non-Majors (must focus on global or immigration issues)


Other courses are possible with appropriate assignments—just ask!



GSWPIR students complete their field instruction in approved field settings that specialize in working with immigrants, refugees and/or global practice – and that align with their chosen Practice Method.

All field placements are located in the New York/New Jersey Metropolitan area and environs. Supervisors must be located in this region and be available for in-person meetings with representatives of the Field Education Department.   

GSWPIR field placements include hospitals, schools, community organizations, institutes, centers of activism, and programs for affirmative aging.

Examples of current placements include:

Ackerman Institute for the Family
Institute for Psychoanalytic Training and Research
Charles B. Wang Community Health Center
Sanctuary for Families
Union Settlement
New York City Anti-Violence Project
The Ali Forney Center
Puerto Rican Family Institute
The Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action
Libertas Center for Human Rights at Elmhurst Hospital
Asian Bicultural Center at Gouverneur Hospital
Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union



List of the core full time faculty members currently and actively working in the GSWPIR field of practice:



Events / Blog




Resources: Social Workers Working with Immigrants

Resources: International Association of Schools of Social Work

Scan QR code to go to
Global Social Work and Practice with Immigrants and Refugees Webpage