In April 2022, in partnership with Meridian International Center, Global Santa Fe had the privilege to host a group of international visitors from Spain for a project titled “The Role of U.S. Civil Society in the Integration of Immigrants”.

The group included six individuals with varying occupations ranging from providing care for LGBTQ immigrants to assisting Sub-Saharan African immigrants obtain jobs. Immigration is an immensely important issue in New Mexico, in part because of the state’s large immigrant community. Almost one in ten residents were born in another country, while one in nine residents is a native-born U.S. citizen with at least one immigrant parent.

Participants met with a number of civil society groups working in Santa Fe to ensure immigrants and refugees are treated humanely and that their human rights are respected. An especially powerful meeting was with Gerard’s House, an organization providing free, bilingual grief support groups for children who have experienced life-changing loss, such as the death of – or separation from – a parent or other loved one. The participants and Gerard’s House staff were able to share experiences and perspectives on the importance of providing accessible resources to serve immigrants’ psychological needs in addition to
their material ones in order for immigrants to fully integrate and thrive in society.

While there are many differences between Spain and the United States when it comes to immigration and the integration of immigrants into society, this project highlighted the many similarities as well. In both countries, xenophobia and racism result in inhumane immigration policies and the consequential pain and suffering many immigrants face.

However, as was exemplified by the international participants and the New Mexican civil society groups they met with, there are also many people fighting to make their communities more equitable, safe and welcoming homes for all. We are grateful to have witnessed the connections made and the lessons learned, all of which reminded us of the importance of international exchanges and our commitment to continue connecting Santa Fe with the world.