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History of Social Welfare and Foreign Labor in the United States Virgin Islands: A Policy Analysis

Francis, E. Aracelis

This study examines the foreign-worker crisis in the United States Virgin Islands during the twenty-year period from its inception to 1976. The role of social workers in policy formulation is discussed in terms of the development and role of the Virgin Islands Department of Social Welfare, specifically this agency's response to the needs of the foreign workers and to the community in general. The author hypothesizes that the lack of appropriate and adequate responses sprang from (1) the federal government responding more to business interests than to the social needs of the foreign workers and their families; (2) the federal and local governments viewing the foreign workers as temporary and failing to envisage the emergence of critical social problems; (3) the federal government's disregard for whether or not the local government could deal with the socioeconomic consequences of migratory workers; (4) the local government's bypassing the needs of the foreign workers in order to
preserve scarce services for the native-born and voting population; and (5) the local government's failure to develop adequate policies and programs to deal with the consequences of the foreign-workers program being directly related to the local government's inability to influence federal policies. Hypotheses one through four are supported by the study data, but the fifth was not supported. The author points to the Virgin Islands' territorial status, and the consequent prejudicial relationship vis-a-vis Washington as a dominating factor in both federal and local policy formulation and execution. United States citizenship in the Virgin Islands does not guarantee the same benefits as citizenship on the United States mainland. In particular, Virgin Islanders do not vote for the President and the Vice President nor do they receive Supplemental. Security Income (SSI). Only recently in fact have Virgin Islands secured representation in the federal Congress -- a non-voting delegate. The author traces the local government-federal government relationship from its earliest roots through 1976. Particularly important is the haphazard manner in which funds are provided for Congressionally mandated programs in the Virgin Islands. Policy implications and recommendations are based on the distinction between the cultural and socioeconomic characteristics of the Virgin Islands and the United States mainland and on the planning necessary when large numbers of migrants are introduced into a society. The author contends that (1) the migrant workers should become healthy, productive, and contributing. members of the Virgin Islands society, the basic goal of such a policy being successful integration into the community; (2) the local government must actively plan for the health, education, and welfare of the migrant labor force. In
the final analysis, the local government is held responsible for the migrant work force; (3) local social service programs must fit local mores and cultural values; (4) the federal government must provide training and resources to effectively and efficiently carry new programs out. The Virgin Islands' ambiguous status has made this a major problem in providing adequate social welfare services. In order to implement policy successfully, clarification of the relationship between the Virgin Islands government and the United States government is necessary. Also necessary is evaluation of the cultural and socioeconomic differences of an island community with limited resources and different needs than the United States continent.

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Academic Units
Social Work
Thesis Advisors
Jones, James
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 22, 2015
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