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Announcing the Immigration Initiative at Harvard

New university-wide effort, launched with support from HGSE, aims to spur research, policy, and action on immigration.

The Immigration Initiative at Harvard (IIH) — a new university-wide effort launched today — will bring together Harvard students, researchers, and policy leaders to advance innovative research about immigration. Led by Harvard Graduate School of Education Professor Roberto Gonzales, a leading expert on the experiences of immigrant youth, the central mission of IIH is to build a scholarly community of researchers from across Harvard schools and programs, to bring national leaders in the immigration conversation to campus, and to inform media, policymakers, practitioners, and the public about immigration by providing access to non-partisan research, as well as recommendations on immigration policy.

  • Save the date: The Immigration Initiative at Harvard will host Humanitarianism and Mass Migration: Confronting the World Crisis — an Askwith Forum with UCLA’s Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, on October 1, 5:30–7 p.m.
  • Listen to an interview with Professor Roberto Gonzales on the Harvard EdCast.
  • The Immigration Research Fellows Program offers advanced-level doctoral students at Harvard the chance to receive additional training and support for one academic year. Meet the 2019–2020 Fellows.

“There’s never been a more pressing time in the history of our country regarding issues of immigrant incorporation and policy,” said Gonzales. “The United States is home to a large population of settled migrants without legal immigration status residing and participating in communities. And our national policies are becoming increasingly exclusionary and punitive. There is an urgent need to come together to better understand and inform the broader public about the consequences of immigration policy on children, families, and communities.”

With growing research on the effects of immigration on people’s everyday lives and on the country as a whole, Gonzales stressed that a collaboration among Harvard University researchers and students is essential to confront these issues. “It is our hope that IIH can be a vibrant space for intellectual exchange, community support, and action on campus and beyond,” he said.

IIH includes an executive committee composed of Harvard faculty and community leaders who will provide input on programming and activities. “The launch of the Immigration Initiative at Harvard under Professor Gonzales' leadership could not come at a more opportune moment,” said Harvard School of Public Health Professor Jacqueline Bhabha, an IIH Executive Committee member who studies issues of transnational child migration, refugee protection, children’s rights and citizenship. “With developments relating to migration a daily subject of news headlines and with student interest in and concern about the topic at an all-time high, the Immigration Initiative will fill a critical research and pedagogical role.”

Roberto Gonzales
Professor Roberto Gonzales
Photo: Harvard News Office

Professor Roberto Gonzales

Harvard Professor Walter Johnson, another executive committee member whose research focus is on American history, stressed the importance of universities addressing issues of immigration. “As universities struggle to find their bearings in these times, efforts like the Immigration Initiative point the way by putting the resources of the university into the service of a fuller vision of democracy and human flourishing,” he said.

Additionally, IIH also seeks expertise beyond Harvard through a National Advisory Board comprising scholars studying immigration policy and practice, who can provide feedback on activities, policy engagement, and how to disseminate information.

IIH will work directly to support new research efforts, develop a community across Harvard among those interested in immigration, share up-to-date information about issues in immigration, and learn from and collaborate with immigrant communities, through the following efforts:

  • The Immigration Research Fellows Program, which supports a yearly cohort of advanced-level doctoral students at Harvard University working on dissertations related to issues of immigrant incorporation or immigration policy the opportunity to receive additional training and support for one academic year.
  • Collaboration with campus groups and organizations working on issues related to immigration — with the aim of creating a more active space within the university for conversations, community support, and action.
  • A range of events, some for the IIH community and others open to the public, highlighting immigration-related research and the lived experiences of immigrants.
  • The Harvard Immigration Project Issue Briefs, a series that shares new findings in immigration research, and provides background and recommendations to policymakers, practitioners, journalists, and researchers.

“Research aimed at understanding the mechanisms that facilitate and constrain immigrant incorporation is incredibly useful to policymakers and practitioners on the ground — in communities and local organizations,” Gonzales said. “It is my hope that through IIH we can lift up this work and make it available to inform key stakeholders.”

Initial funding for IIH is from the Dean’s Impact Fund of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. “The Harvard Graduate School of Education believes in the importance of education for all, regardless of immigration status, and I’m excited that Roberto will be leading this university-wide effort on such a critical set of topics,” said HGSE Dean Bridget Long. “The Immigration Initiative at Harvard provides the opportunity to develop a collaborative approach to tackling the great challenges facing immigrant communities. I look forward to not only the information generated by the initiative but also its impact on future immigration policy.”


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