The profession of social work continues to struggle with the provision of services that must be culturally sensitive to the values and traditions of the people who live in rural neighborhoods and colonias along the U.S.–Mexico border. The diverse populations that live in the border environment are self-reliant and distrust outsiders. This most salient fact creates opportunities for social work programs to adopt the person-in-the-environment approach to assessment. In so doing, the gente (people) in need of services are more apt to feel respected and will facilitate access to their families and communities. The rurality paradigm was developed to provide an understanding of the underlying ideologies of the community first and foremost. Rurality views people’s self-image as constructed by their interactions with each other and the environment. Social work practice in rural areas continues to be at the forefront of both educational and professional concerns. A paradigm shift is advocated to capture the “rurality”- defined lifestyle found along the U.S.–Mexico border of South Texas. This approach provides a more in-depth view of the social interactions necessary for competent, culturally sensitive social work practice.
According to the 2010 Census, 308.7 million people resided in the United States on April 1, 2010, of which 50.5 million (or 16%) were of Hispanic or Latino origin. The Mexican-origin population increased by 54% since the previous Census, and it had the largest numeric increase (11.2 million), growing from 20.6 million in 2000 to 31.8 million in 2010 (Ennis, Rio-Vargas, & Albert, 2011). The current U.S. Census demographic information was used to project the social needs of Mexican-origin Hispanics. An estimated 11.2 million unauthorized Hispanic-origin migrants reside in the United States. Select provisions of the failed 2007 Immigration Reform Act are discussed in context of the Reagan Administration’s 1986 Immigration Reform Act. Key words are defined to facilitate understanding of issues presented that affect the well-being of the Mexican-origin population. Best social work practices for working with Mexican-origin Hispanics are proposed in the context of issues identified in the narrative. Future trends are speculative predictions with suggestions based on the author's social work practice experience, research, and knowledge of the literature.