Immigration in the Social Age: Providing Mobile Access to Mobile People

As a Puerto Rican, I'm really interested in trends in mobile and internet usage among Latinos. They are remarkably high, outpacing the US population in several areas. Clearly many of these Latinos were immigrants in the not too distant past, supporting the argument to do more with mobile presented in our next blog installment on Immigration in the Social Age: Providing Mobile Access to Mobile People. Mobile use is exploding throughout the world, particularly in developing areas such as Asia and Africa, where many future immigrants are likely to come from. Agencies responsible for immigration, like so many other federal government departments, will benefit from using mobile more to deal with their customers.

Again your authors are @TiffanyWan, @AbedsAli, and @NickFlorek.

Providing Mobile Access to Mobile People

Federal agencies are increasingly tasked with becoming more transparent. This transparency is especially relevant for documented and undocumented immigrant populations and the federal agencies that serve them — as mobility is inherent to the term ‘immigrant.’ Tasked with serving a population that is intrinsically mobile can be a problem for federal immigration agencies. In addition to the social services provided by such burgeoning social media sites as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, social media affords customers of virtually any industry and service with high-quality accessibility allowing users to have convenient, hassle-free access to information regardless of location. These agencies can draw on lessons from the growing use of social media as a resource to increase customer accessibility while systematically increasing agency efficiency and effectiveness.

Social media can be a valuable resource for both disseminators and followers. For federal agencies in immigration services, social media can serve as a valuable resource in communicating with migrants in all phases of the immigration process. Prior to immigrating to the United States, social media can provide valuable insights to the proper documents, length of time for processing, and other requirements for residence or temporary status to all populations regardless of location. The remote accessibility of United States’ immigration information through social media can serve as a valuable tool for federal agencies to disseminate information on legal migration rules and procedures for potential migrants to begin the application process prior to entering the country rather than beginning the process as an undocumented resident. Social media can also use geospatial data to pinpoint a potential immigrant’s location and afford different details and instructions for migration that may be tailored to the specific countries or regions an individual is emigrating from.[1]

In addition to providing immigrants with hassle-free, remote access to otherwise cumbersome information, social media is largely produced by immigrants. Considering social media provides affordable and often free global communication services, immigrants are one of the largest social media producers. A Canadian study found that immigrants are one of the largest social media users, arguing that immigrants not only use social media as a hassle-free resource to communicate with family and friends abroad, but frequently use social media to blog about their migration experience.[2]

Communicating through social media is even more evident when organizations capitalize on the remote access afforded by cellular devices. Mobile devices give even those with limited computer access the ability to connect. While mobile use among immigrants still lags behind that of the U.S. born, this divide is smaller than the divide in Internet and computer use among immigrant and native-born populations.[3] To this end, such organizations as Voces Moviles/Mobile Voices engage immigrant workers with limited computer access with blogs and other social media networks through the use of remote cellular devices.[4]

This high level of engagement with social media as both followers and producers throughout the immigration process suggests that social media is an innovative way to reach and engage immigrant populations throughout the world.



[1] Scharl, Arno and Klaus Tochtermann. “The Geospatial Web: How Geobrowsers, Social Software and the Web 2.0 are Shaping the Network Society,” Springer-Verlag London Limited, 2007.

[2] Environics Analytics. “New Database Reveals Social Media Habits Tied to Canadian Lifestyles,” 21 March 2011. http://www.environicsanalytics.ca/media_room.aspx?tab=news&item=2011Mar21_Database

[3] Livingston, Gretchen. “The Latino Digital Divide: The Native Born versus The Foreign Born” Pew Hispanic Center, http://globalvillage.us/hispanicmarket/123.pdf

[4] Pokharel, Prabhas. “How Mobile Voices Enables Day Laborers to Tell Their Stories,” PBS, http://www.pbs.org/idealab/2010/02/how-mobile-voices-enables-day-laborers-to-tell-their-stories053.html

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