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HOMETOWN ASSOCIATIONS: AN UNTAPPED RESOURCE FOR IMMIGRANT INTEGRATION?

By Will Somerville, Jamie Durana, Aaron Matteo Terrazas, July 2008


Hometown associations (HTAs), immigrant organizations based on a common hometown, are typically informal, voluntary groups that bring members together for social, cultural, political empowerment, and economic development goals. The literature on HTAs has concentrated almost exclusively on their role as agents of international development.

Less attention has been paid, however, to the fact that HTAs also function as integration intermediaries in their country of destination, whether providing a social network for new immigrants or offering more tangible services such as language classes.

Policymakers should not consider immigrants’ international development and domestic integration objectives as a zero-sum game of competing priorities. Instead, policymakers should view both roles as complementary and concentrate on enhancing associations' capacity to deliver for communities at home and abroad.

Limited, well-designed interventions by government and nongovernment organizations can strengthen HTAs' immigrant integration capacity, so long as they are done cooperatively.

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