Loyola University Chicago

Center for Immigrant & Refugee Accompaniment (CIRA)

School of Social Work

About Us

The number of internally displaced persons and international migrants and refugees is greater today than at any other time in history. Globally, internal and cross-border displacement has escalated dramatically in the last decade due to conflict, violence, disasters, climate change, environmental degradation, development projects, and extreme poverty. 

While migration may present a chance to improve life circumstances, it also poses a series of risks, particularly internally displaced persons that cannot count on the protection of their government and irregular immigrants who move outside of the regulatory norms of states. Refugees and immigrants may encounter risks before, during, and after migration, which can include traumatic exposure, arduous and dangerous journeys, clandestine border crossings, protracted stays in refugee camps, detention, deportation, separation from family, and disruptions in social networks. Post-migration stressors can include profound social exclusion and corresponding stress reactions. 

Immigrants and refugees in a foreign country may be confronted with surmountable acculturation and visa-related stressors due to the complexities of the immigration system, the pathways to becoming a permanent resident, and securing citizenship. 

In response to these local and global trends and the associated human, social, political, and spiritual challenges and opportunities that migration presents, the Loyola University School of Social Work initiated a Center for Immigrant and Refugee Accompaniment (CIRA) in 2018.  While the Center arises in response to these trends, it also emerges from a long history of engagement with NGOs that accompany refugees and immigrants and their families in the Americas, including the network of Jesuit Migrant Services of Central and North America (CANA-SJM), the Kino Border Initiative, and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago, among others, catering to diverse immigrant and refugee communities.  More recently the Center has expanded its work beyond the Americas and its partnerships to include Jesuit Refugee Services and the Solidarity with Refugees and Migrants Working Group of the International Association of Jesuit Universities.  

A new area of focus that our Associate Director, Dr. Abha Rai (link to https://www.luc.edu/socialwork/aboutus/facultystaff/raiabha.shtml) brings to CIRA her work with Asian immigrants and Afghan refugees among other diverse groups. Through community partnerships and engagement with NGOs such as Apna Ghar, Sanjeevani4u, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and World Relief, our projects further social justice and racial equity. By delving into well-being and assimilation, both cultural and legal, of these vulnerable populations, our projects rely on the utilization of culturally responsive approaches. Some of our current and future projects at CIRA will explore the nuances of integration, challenges of diverse immigrant communities utilizing an intersectionality and person-centered approach moving away from the one-size-fits-all approach.  

The Center directly supports the mission of the School to form social work professionals that are effective change agents for social justice in a global context. CIRA builds on these core commitments, as well as the School’s migration-focused and global initiatives and inter-institutional relationships, faculty expertise, and the School’s strategic location in Chicago, home to a rich immigrant mosaic. The complementary mission of CIRA is to contribute to the formation of social work professionals that can in solidarity accompany migrants in the construction of a more inclusive local and global community that affirms the human dignity of the person and in which immigrants/refugees realize their capabilities, exercise their rights and transform their social condition and institutions. This formation is supported through collaborative research, advocacy, and direct accompaniment opportunities to listen, witness, and engage in critical inquiry and joint action. These opportunities are organized along four lines of CIRA programming: 

Curriculum Innovation and Professional Development

Leadership in innovative undergraduate, graduate, and professional development curriculum aimed at preparing social work and human service students and professionals for domestic, international, and transnational practice with refugees and immigrants that appreciates and promotes the agency and capabilities of migrants and is culturally relevant and cognizant of regional, national, and international contexts. 

Interdisciplinary and International Research

A forum for interdisciplinary, transnational, and international research focused on social work practice with immigrants, refugee, and internally displaced persons; immigrant and refugee organizing and organizations; and migration dynamics and policy. 

Residence Program for Scholars

Engaged intellectual community for doctoral fellows and scholars in residence to advance collaborative migration-focused research, teaching, and community dialogue with local and international community partners. 

Accompaniment and Advocacy

Direct accompaniment of migrant populations through domestic and international field practicum and service-learning opportunities for students from Loyola and international partners institutions, as well as advocacy initiatives to raise awareness and promote just and humane immigration policies.