Undocumented Migration

The Global Migration Center will be the premier institution studying the impacts of immigration policy and immigration law enforcement on the health, socioeconomic status, self-image and family life of undocumented immigrants and immigrant detainees/deportees, as well as on their communities.

Héctor López
"Héctor López (#134) Two Soldier Left Behind" by Leopoldo Peña

Humanizing Deportation Project

The Center will house the Humanizing Deportation project, a project coordinated by Professor Robert Irwin, which includes the world’s largest archive of community testimonial narratives on contemporary migration and deportation.

In response to general lack of first-hand knowledge regarding the experience of deportation and removal, and the consequent dehumanized narratives on the topic, we are producing an online open access archive  of personal stories about deportation. Policy debate on deportation tends to be driven by statistics, with little attention to human experience. This project will make visible a range of humanitarian issues that mass human displacement has generated as the result of its management on both sides of the US-Mexico border.

It employs digital storytelling, a digital genre that puts control of content and production in the hands of community storytellers (deportees and others affected by deportation and deportability), to produce a public archive that will give a human face to the deportation crisis.

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Comparative Border Studies

Nido de las águilas in Tijuana, Mexico (Humanizando la Deportación Project)

Another effort joining the Global Migration Center is the Mellon Initiative in Comparative Border Studies: Rights, Containment, Protest co-directed by Professor Robert Irwin.

This initiative has two major goals: first, to respond to the urgent need for comparative conversations about the question of borders and to interrogate the production, deployment and evasion of regional and geographic categories; and second, to bridge scholarship in area studies and ethnic studies, fields that should be in closer conversation with one another given the realities of transnationalism and the transnationalizing of these fields.

This initiative will help promote new approaches to the study of borders, violence, containment, rights, and protest as scholarship attempts to grapple with new political movements and networks that have emerged spanning Latin America, the Middle East, South Asia, Europe, and North America. These rapid shifts on the ground demand more complex theorization and cross-disciplinary, comparative research as older paradigms of transnationalism and diaspora appear increasingly obsolete or inadequate. Programs as such as the Social Science Research Council have focused on Inter-Asian Contexts and Connections in order to support new research that is needed to study region-making and regional shifts across Asia.

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Recent Research by Brad Jones on the Blame attribution for US-Mexico border Deaths

Professor Brad Jones, Department of Political Science

In the past two decades, well over 7,000 migrants have died on the U.S.-Mexico border attempting to make the crossing.  Many of these migrants—well over 3,000 of them—died in the Arizona desert.  The policy contributing to this massive death toll has been the U.S. Border Patrol’s enforcement paradigm of “prevention-by-deterrence.”  The idea behind this concept was that if border crossing was made extraordinarily dangerous, migrants would simply not attempt entry.  This, of course, did not happen and so over time, as prevention-by-deterrence remained the operating policy, the death toll climbed.  Yet despite this massive death toll on the southern border, few Americans are even aware of the issue, let alone have much knowledge about the policies associated with migrant deaths. 

In our work, we are interested in an important concept known as “blame attribution;” that is, the reasons people give to explain why a particular problem exists.  Blame attribution theory suggests two different pathways of blame, “dispositional blame” and “situational blame.” Under dispositional blame, people are prone to blame the victim for their plight; under situational blame, people are prone to associate a problem with systemic factors.

Our current studies on this question are interested in assessing how Americans assign blame for the migrant death toll.  Relying on survey experiments, we consider how different narratives of the undocumented immigration issue leads individuals to become more (or less) dispositional in their assignment of blame.  Preliminary results of the current study suggest that individuals, when exposed to narratives that offer deeper context into why migrants attempt entry into the U.S., are less prone to engage in “victim blaming.”  We see this result as normatively important because it suggests that for some, the tendency to blame undocumented migrants for their plight may not be as immutable or as “baked in” as previously thought.  Further, understanding attributions-of-blame is critical because it helps us better understand the range of policy remedies people may be apt to support. 

Links relevant to my work on the border: