06/26/2012 05:32 pm ET Updated Aug 26, 2012

A New Form of Immigration Assimilation

Using the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center (FIAC) as a case study, I attempt to understand how a human rights organization facilitates the process of immigrant incorporation into American society.

FIAC is a not-for-profit legal services organization founded in 1996 to protect and promote the human rights of immigrants. Guided by the belief that immigrants, regardless of legal status, have inherent rights as human beings, the organization attempts to integrate immigrants into society through legal means. They address the increasing importance of legal status by providing legal services to low-income immigrants through two lines of work: direct casework and policy advocacy.

In light of their work, I argue three points: (1) In the last decades, as legal status has gained increasing salience due to the creation of anti-immigrant laws, those without proper documentation are barred from opportunities that allow for social membership. Therefore, pathways to assimilation are being blocked legally rather than culturally, as traditional views have held; (2) with its direct service work, FIAC is able to give undocumented immigrants the legal status and services they need to individually adapt to the host society; and (3) through its broader policy work, FIAC is able to bring about changes in the host society that ultimately orients it to accept newcomers.

I assert that by taking efforts to assist individual immigrants adapt to an American lifestyle while molding the society through policy changes to become more immigrant-friendly, FIAC is providing a new form of immigrant assimilation. Essentially, through legal means and a human rights ideology, the organization serves the role of a mediator between both parties. It prompts a two-way convergence that adapts the immigrant to society while adjusting the host society to the immigrant; ultimately, this dual approach facilitates social inclusion.