Loyola University Chicago

Center for Immigrant & Refugee Accompaniment (CIRA)

School of Social Work

About Us

The number of internally displaced persons and international migrants is greater today than in 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 for migrants, particularly internally displaced persons that cannot count on the protection of their government and irregular migrants whom move outside of the regulatory norms of states. Migrants 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.

In response to these 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 migrants 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.

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 migrants 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 partner institutions, as well as advocacy initiatives to raise awareness and promote just and humane immigration policies.