Advocating for Immigrants


With a $3,000 grant from a Peabody Society Dean’s Circle, Assistant Professor Jennifer Scott, PhD and LSU Immigration Law Clinic’s Lauren Aronson, JD, created a program to train social workers, lawyers and interpreters on how to better collaborate to help immigrants. 

The Immigrant Advocacy Training Series brought together 55 social workers and lawyers to discuss the importance and ethical implications of working with interpreters; tips on how to identify, interview and obtain support for traumatized individuals; and, techniques to strengthen the lawyer-social worker relationship. 

The series began with actual accounts of immigrants’ journeys based on Scott’s travels and extensive counseling work with immigrants.  “We painted a realistic picture of what immigrants—particularly those who make their way from Mexico by land to the U.S.--seeking asylum have experienced including abuse, violence and rape.” 

The groups explored ways to better serve a community that may distrust government institutions, fear authority and lack proficiency in the language.

 One of the keys to serving that community recognizing interpreters as vital part of the legal team. For example, “Asking an interpreter to sign a non-disclosure agreement before rather than during the client meeting,” explains Scott, “is an essential part to maintaining confidentiality and having a clear conversation.”

The court often requires testimony of another important advocate—the social workers--as expert witnesses either in person or through written affidavits of support.  Scott says, “So, it’s essential to empower all these professionals to understand each other’s roles so they can effectively collaborate on immigration cases.”

Scott’s passion for improving the lives of underserved populations emerged during high school in Houston, Texas. “I began volunteering with initiatives at the age 15,” she recalls, “because I was frustrated by economic inequality and poverty.”

Upon joining the faculty of LSU School of Social Work, Scott quickly saw a need for improving the resources available to Baton Rouge’s immigrant community, whose undocumented status often affects people’s economic well-being. 

“It’s thrilling that my career is now dedicated to finding solutions to the very issues that frustrated me in my youth,” she says. 

Jennifer Scott, PhD, Assistant Professor of Social Work

She joined the LSU faculty after completing a PhD in Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin where she was a graduate student fellow in the Urban Ethnography Lab and the Population Research Center. She holds a master of international affairs from Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, a master of science in social work from Columbia University School of Social Work and a bachelor of science in biology and philosophy from Trinity University.

Scott’s research focuses on the broader trends and sociopolitical determinants of poverty, inequality and migration. She is particularly interested in the strategies individuals, families and communities use to make ends meet--particularly those rooted in collective action or developed in response to crisis or disaster. Besides volunteering at several worker and immigrants’ rights organizations in Texas, Scott has extensive research experience in Peru, Mexico and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

About SSW

The LSU School of Social Work (SSW) aspires to be a leading school of social work, a vibrant center of intellectual development, a leader in promoting and supporting diverse communities, and an advocate for an integrated and inclusive model of social work, all within a learning environment that supports best educational practices. The SSW offers a Child and Family Studies (CFS) undergraduate degree, MSW, online MSW, and PhD. In fall 2018, the school is launching a bachelor of social work degree program. SSW is part of the College of Human Sciences & Education.  

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About CHSE

The College of Human Sciences & Education (CHSE) is a nationally accredited division of Louisiana State University. The college is comprised of the School of Education, the School of Kinesiology, the School of Leadership & Human Resource Development, the School of Information Studies, the School of Social Work, and the University Laboratory School. These combined schools offer 8 undergraduate degree programs, 18 graduate programs, and 7 online graduate degree and/or certificate programs, enrolling more than 1,900 undergraduate and 1,120 graduate students. The College is committed to achieving the highest standards in teaching, research, and service and is committed to improving quality of life across the lifespan.

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