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We Belong

Collaboration for Community-Engaged Research and Immigrant Justice

“I long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever I find myself.” – Maya Angelou

“The most important good we distribute to each other in society is membership.” – John A. Powell



“The We Belong Project has been a great learning experience, as we work to better understand our community and its needs. Thus far, I have learned How often fear has inhibited mixed-status families from becoming vulnerable and sharing their stories. Especially during a time of uncertainty, the resilience these families have can inspire one to reevaluate the privileges we possess. Through storytelling, we are able to take a glimpse into someone’s life– one that is often silenced but powerful”. – Shayda Hami, UCSC student.

The United States fashions itself a nation of immigrants. In Santa Cruz County, immigrant families are an essential part of our history and our fabric. Yet a shifting national political climate often scapegoats immigrants, unjustly blaming them for wider social ills, sewing division and distrust. Many immigrant families, despite their contributions, remain under-served, under-represented and struggling.

So what is life like for immigrant families in our County? Do they feel welcomed and included? And how can we create the conditions in which ALL residents not only survive, but thrive?


We Belong is a community-initiated student-engaged research project that addresses these questions by documenting the experiences of immigrant families, their contributions, and the obstacles they face. We aim to elevate immigrant voices, strengthen local community coalitions, and generate actionable knowledge to improve social services and inform policies to ensure ALL community members belong and thrive.

As our team researches, we are seeing some key barriers immigrants and their families are facing in feeling like they belong in their community. As we research more, we hope to clarify these issues in order to figure out how to support our community in a better way.

Places Of Belonging or Exclusion

Physical/Emotional Well-Being

Institutions & Community Organizations

Economic Well-being

Legal Status

Visions of Justice