Exploring Immigration Issues in Germany
With the generous support of a Legacy Grant, I was able to travel to the German state of Hesse, where I volunteered full-time in the Hessian Ministry for Social Affairs and Integration. This state-level authority is responsible for ensuring that all Germans—regardless of heritage, ability, and socioeconomic background—have access to equal opportunities.
I did most of my work in the Committee for Integration, a group responsible for the engagement of issues affecting Germans who are related to an immigrant through at least one parent. As of April 2015, every other child under the age of five has a migration background. Although they hold full citizenship, many face structural, social, and cultural challenges not known to children of “un-German” families.
I was given the chance to experience firsthand not only how policy is made, but how it directly affects people in the real world. I sat in on meetings of an educational action group and conducted research into the relationship between those with a migration background and disability. I even met with representatives of the so-called Ausländerbeirat, a council that gives a voice to foreigners in the community. Additionally, I engaged in conversations with a wide range of people that gave me a sense of the issues on a personal level.
I see this summer as only a first step into exploring these issues. As a German major, I considered it important to include all Germans in my study of the country and culture. I want to help highlight the different approaches that Germany takes in realizing its own existence as a diverse nation, as a Zuwanderungsland (a destination for immigration). There is much to be learned from its unique approach to this reality, especially in today’s America.
—Jacob Ciafone '18