An important part of integrating into a new community involves not only accessing essential services to help provide for basic needs, but also forming meaningful relationships and social networks. This can increase feelings of connectivity, participation in society, and acceptance in the host country. On the other hand, failing to form these social connections can result in feelings of isolation, loneliness, and frustration, which can often lead to loneliness and depression. Strong social connections can also increase connection to economic, educational, and professional resources, as immigrants can draw upon their social network in times of need.
Social inclusion refers to the full integration of immigrants into society, including economic, cultural, social, and political participation in the host country. Often, the first meaningful connections an immigrant forms after moving to a new country can include organizations and institutions formed within the diaspora community from their home country. For example, in Boston, Haitian immigrants may find meaningful connections with other immigrants from their home country through Haitian churches, nonprofit organizations, and social clubs in the Boston area.
While maintaining connections with those from their own immigrant community, more complete integration can occur when immigrants begin forging social ties with native-born US citizens and members of other immigrant communities. There can sometimes be linguistic barriers to reaching out beyond one's own immigrant community; in the US, this is mainly an issue for immigrants whose native language is not English. For this reason, English as a Second Language (ESL) courses are very important in promoting social integration of non-English speaking immigrants. These courses are sometimes offered through immigrant services providers such as community nonprofit organizations; English courses can also be found in educational and government institutions.
Some of the most important organizations that can promote increased social inclusion are churches and other religious organizations, social clubs, nonprofit or volunteer organizations, sports teams, professional organizations or networks, educational institutions and peer groups, and cultural venues (arts, music, etc.).
Social cohesion refers to efforts to counter xenophobia, or anti-immigrant sentiments, promoting anti-discrimination, and encouraging a cultural of mutual understanding between immigrants from various countries and native-born residents of the host country.
In the United States, many immigrants encounter issues with discrimination and xenophobia which can often negatively affect integration outcomes. Other immigrants may experience multiple forms of discrimination, including discrimination based on race, national origin, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity, and ability. These forms of discrimination are often systemic and have long institutional histories in the United States. Suffering one or more of these categories of discrimination can lead to reduced quality of life and human development.
First and foremost, immigrant service providers need to be educated about the types of discrimination they may encounter, as they often lack an understanding of the historical and current contexts of institutionalized discrimination in the United States before arriving in the country. Educating immigrants can help them take steps to protect themselves and advocate for their rights as well as the rights of others in their community who are unable to advocate for themselves.
Another method for addressing the issue of discrimination is to build bridges of cultural understanding and empathy between diverse groups. One way to do this is to encourage participation of native-born US citizens and diverse groups of immigrants in nonprofits and community organizations as volunteers. This can promote mutual learning about one another's cultures, which can reduce discrimination against immigrant groups. This can also be accomplished through diversity and anti-racism (or anti-discrimination) trainings conducted at workplaces and universities.