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Faculty & Research

Roberto G. Gonzales

Professor of Education

Roberto G. Gonzales

Degree:  Ph.D., University of California, (2008)
Email:  [javascript protected email address]
Phone:  617.496.1013
Vitae/CV:   Roberto G. Gonzales.pdf
Office:  Gutman 429
Office Hours Contact:  Email the Faculty Assistant to set up the appointment
Faculty Assistant:  Wendy Angus

Profile

Roberto Gonzales is professor of education at HGSE and director of the newly formed Immigration Initiative at Harvard (IIH), a university-wide effort aimed at advancing and promoting interdisciplinary scholarship and intellectual exchange around issues of immigration policy and immigrant communities. His research centers on contemporary processes of immigration and social inequality, and stems from theoretical interests at the intersection of race and ethnicity, immigration, and policy. Gonzales’ research examines the effects of legal contexts on the coming of age experiences of vulnerable and hard-to-reach immigrant youth populations. His work has been cited across a broad range of disciplines and has garnered awards from sociology, anthropology, psychology, education, law, and social work.

Since 2002 Gonzales has carried out one of the most comprehensive studies of undocumented immigrants in the United States. His book, Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America (University of California Press), is based on an in-depth study that followed 150 undocumented young adults in Los Angeles for twelve years. Lives in Limbo has won eight major book awards, including the Society for the Study of Social Problems C. Wright Mills Award, the American Education Research Association Outstanding Book Award, the Law and Society Association Herbert Jacob Book Award, and the Society for Social Work and Research Book Award. It has also been selected by six universities as a Common Read. In addition, several groups around the country have used the book to train staff, including the Madison Police Department, Teach for America, and 23 public schools. Last year, the book was optioned for theatrical production, and plans are underway for the release of a second edition.

In addition, Gonzales’ National UnDACAmented Research Project has surveyed nearly 2,700 undocumented young adults and has carried out 500 in-depth interviews on their experiences following President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. He is also teaming up with several colleagues to investigate educator responses to school climate issues stemming from immigration policies.

Gonzales’ work has been has been featured in top journals, including the American Sociological Review, Annual Review of Sociology, Current Anthropology, and the Harvard Educational Review as well as in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, TIME magazine, U.S. News & World Report, and Chronicle of Higher Education.

Gonzales is a research affiliate of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he also participates in a transition to adulthood research network.  Prior to his faculty position at Harvard, Gonzales held faculty positions at the University of Chicago and at the University of Washington. He received his B.A. from the Colorado College, an M.A. from the University of Chicago, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California Irvine. His research has been supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the WT Grant Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, and the James Irvine Foundation.

Click here to see a full list of Roberto Gonzales' courses.

Areas of Expertise
Sponsored Projects

Understanding Educator Responses to Immigration in the Classroom (2016-2018)
Heising-Simons Foundation

This project seeks to better understand the experiences and responses of educators in diverse places of immigrant settlement to the growing political discourse around immigration that is present in their classrooms, schools, and communities. The last few years have seen an uptick in hostility towards immigrants and the rise of hate groups, specifically targeting immigrants. Coupled with unprecedented levels of immigration enforcement, these developments have created a chilling effect in communities and schools. Meanwhile, educators in diverse settings grapple with a variety of related, yet textured, issues, while they struggle to understand their and their studentsÂ’ rights in an ever-changing political environment. How are educators in schools and communities across the United States responding to immigration policies and the general political climate? What resources can they leverage to support their efforts? How do existing barriers impact their work? And, ultimately, how do their practices shape the experiences of immigrant students in their classrooms? In light of these questions, this two-year, mixed-methods research study is aimed at exploring educatorsÂ’ responses to immigration.

From Undocumented to DACAmented: Understanding DACA Beneficiaries in a New Policy Context (2016-2018)
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

On June 15, President Obama announced a change in his administration’s immigration policy that would provide deferred action to an estimated 1.7 million young undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States since childhood. The policy, while not granting a path to legalization and citizenship, provides an opportunity for a segment of the immigrant population to remain in the country without fear of deportation and the ability to apply for work permits. This change comes on the heels of a growing body of scholarship that has documented the untenable circumstances of young people living without legal residency status. President Obama’s 2012 administrative action—the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program—represents an acknowledgement that the current status quo on immigration policy is having particularly disastrous effects on young people who have grown up in the U.S. but due to their undocumented status and to the inability of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, experience turbulent transitions to adulthood rife with legal barriers and exclusions. This multi-sited, longitudinal project aims to better understand how beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program negotiate their uncertain immigration status during their own life course, amid local immigration contexts and in light of changing political climates. We are currently midway through year three of a five-year research study. In late 2013-early 2014, we carried out a national survey, reaching 2,864 DACA eligible young adults. And, in 2015 we carried our second wave, in-depth qualitative interviews with 541 DACA eligible young adults in Arizona, California, Georgia, New York, Illinois, and South Carolina. In the spring of 2016, we will conduct follow-up interviews with each of the 541 interview respondents. Renewal funding would allow us to carry out two subsequent annual interviews with respondents identified and interviewed in 2015.

From Undocumented to DACAmented: Understanding DACA Beneficiaries in a New Policy Context (2016-2017)
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

On June 15, President Obama announced a change in his administration’s immigration policy that would provide deferred action to an estimated 1.7 million young undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States since childhood. The policy, while not granting a path to legalization and citizenship, provides an opportunity for a segment of the immigrant population to remain in the country without fear of deportation and the ability to apply for work permits. This change comes on the heels of a growing body of scholarship that has documented the untenable circumstances of young people living without legal residency status. President Obama’s 2012 administrative action — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program — represents an acknowledgement that the current status quo on immigration policy is having particularly disastrous effects on young people who have grown up in the U.S. but due to their undocumented status and to the inability of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, experience turbulent transitions to adulthood rife with legal barriers and exclusions. This multi-sited, longitudinal project aims to better understand how beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program negotiate their uncertain immigration status during their own life course, amid local immigration contexts and in light of changing political climates. In late 2013-early 2014, we carried out a national survey, reaching 2,864 DACA eligible young adults. And, in 2015 we carried our second wave, in-depth qualitative interviews with 541 DACA eligible young adults in Arizona, California, Georgia, New York, Illinois, and South Carolina. In the spring of 2016, we will conduct follow-up interviews with each of the 541 interview respondents. Renewal funding would allow us to carry out two subsequent annual interviews with respondents identified and interviewed in 2015.

Learning to be Legal: A Proposal to Track the Impact of Deferred Action on DREAM Act Eligible Youth and Young Adults (2013-2017)
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

This multi-sited, mixed-method, longitudinal project aims to better understand how a range of young immigrants within the DACA-eligible population are accessing the program and how DACAmented young adults are experiencing their new status. Through a national survey, and four waves of in-depth qualitative interviews with eligible young adults in six study sites, we will explore how DACAmented individuals negotiate their immigration status during their own life course, amid local immigration contexts and in light of changing political climates. This project is supported by a large research team and by a diverse group of community stakeholders.

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