Emerging Voices in Migration Scholarship

On Friday, August 5, 2022, the American Sociological Association’s International Migration Section will host the Emerging Voices in Migration Scholarship Mini-Conference at the University of Southern California.

Up-and-coming migration scholars will be sharing timely and important research. Among the topics are Race, Ethnicity, and Belonging; Internationally Displaced: Refugees, Asylees, Adoptees, and Humanitarian Migrants; and Immigrants and the Life Course. USC Equity Research Institute is proud to sponsor this migration conference and support these researchers. Here is a preview of that work.

Lizbeth De La Cruz Santana
PhD Candidate, University of California Davis
“Illegalized Deported US Childhood Arrival Immigrants Made Criminals in the Country that Raised Them”

My current research examines the effects of legal contexts and the intersections of immigration and criminal law that illegalize, criminalize, and deport a generation of immigrants that migrated to the US as minors (‘childhood arrivals’). I am specifically focused on the stories of different subcategories of childhood arrival migrants, mainly the many who do not fit the “dreamer” mold. In my dissertation, I engage in the analysis of digital narratives through two concepts I coined: the Childhood Arrivals Critical Theory (CACrit) framework and the childhood arrivals diaspora concept. These concepts invite an inclusive approach to identifying childhood arrivals and employ a textual and audiovisual analyses of cultural materials authored by childhood arrivals.

I am an active collaborator in the Humanizing Deportation digital storytelling project since its launch in 2016 and have conducted fieldwork in Tijuana, Guadalajara, and California. A direct extension of my collaboration with the project is my Playas Tijuana Mural Project, which links directly to testimonial narratives hosted in the archive. The mural is located on the Mexican side of the westernmost point of the US-Mexico border. It brings light to the childhood arrivals diaspora through community participatory art-making and an interactive component that allows visitors to scan quick response (QR) codes to view and listen to the myriad of stories that makes up this generation of immigrants.

Hadi Khoshneviss
Assistant Professor, Rhodes College
“The US Census, MENA Campaign, and the Neoliberal Distribution of Pride, Fear, and Deception”

My research focuses on two areas of scholarship: race and ethnicity, and immigration. My research melds these two areas through the lens of de-colonial studies and global geopolitics. For instance, in my paper, “Accruing whiteness: power and resistance in prerequisite citizenship cases of immigrants from the ‘Middle East,’” I investigate how the discovery of oil in Southwest Asia, or “the Middle East,” made immigrants from this region legally white. In “The inferior white: Politics and practices of racialization of people from the Middle East in the US,” I explore the role of colonialism and global geopolitics in the radicalization of US citizens from Southwest Asia despite their legal white category in the United States. Currently, I am exploring the role of the US Census’s ethnic and racial categories as sources of aspiration for minorities to achieve recognition in the United States as a racial capitalist country.

Katherine Jensen
Assistant Professor of Sociology and International Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison
“Racializing Legality and the State: Forced Migrants and Policy Responses in Brazil”

My research agenda focuses on the racial politics of refugee and immigrant inclusion. We often see and locate racism in how states turn immigrants into excluded Others, subjecting them to draconian apparatuses of control, criminalization, exclusion, and expulsion. I consider how racism manifests in formally welcoming contexts. Not all countries starkly restrict and exclude immigrants. Much of Latin America, for example, recognizes both migration as a human right and the human rights of migrants.

In my work, I focus on Brazil, which has been lauded as a global exemplar in refugee protection. Brazil does not have a detention or deportation regime, and over 90 percent of asylum seekers who apply for refugee status receive it. Nonetheless, I have  found that government officials, bureaucrats, NGOs, and national media racialize refugees, and in ways that have vital consequences for their incorporation and sense of belonging. Formally progressive policy landscapes can likewise racially marginalize refugees and immigrants. Findings suggest that policy reforms and expanding legal access are not enough for immigrant racial justice. Inclusive policies can reconfigure racism rather than unravel it, particularly when immigration occurs in a context undergirded by national racial hierarchies.

Adrienne Lee Atterberry
PRODiG Fellow/Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology, SUNY at New Paltz
“International Migration, Acculturation, and Care Work: Unpacking the Experiences of Korean Grandparent Caregivers in the USA” 

This qualitative study, co-authored by Yooumi Lee (Syracuse University), explores the complexities of grandparent caregiving work within immigrant families. We ask the following questions: What are the circumstances that lead to grandparents taking care of grandchildren? What are grandparents’ experiences of performing family care work outside of their country of origin? We find that grandparent caregivers’ work is a vital contribution to family life among Korean immigrants and their children living in the USA. Despite their limited social networks and English proficiency, these grandparent caregivers provide their children and grandchildren with crucial assistance as they adjust to life in the USA. For example, their presence enables parents to focus their time and energy on academic and professional pursuits. Meanwhile, they transmit elements of Korean culture to their grandchildren – laying the groundwork for them to become Korean American citizens. Grandparents thus serve as an important resource that buttresses their family’s middle-class lifestyle, while also keeping them rooted in Korean traditions.

This study’s findings have important implications for our understanding of the connections between transnational aging, immigrant family life, and first-and second-generation integration. Additionally, this study makes an argument for reconsidering the role of grandparents – and other extended family members – within popular parenting paradigms, such as concerted cultivation.

Kerem Morgül
Visiting Assistant Professor, Hamilton College
“Unusual Suspects: Why do Secular Turks Hold Anti-Refugee Attitudes?”

In many countries across the world, majority members with high educational credentials and secular/cosmopolitan lifestyles increasingly endorse the rights of ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities. Consistent with this trend, existing research indicates that native-born citizens who have higher levels of education, support left-wing/liberal parties, or are religiously unaffiliated tend to be more accepting of refugees and immigrants than do their compatriots who have lower levels of education, support right-wing/conservative parties, or are religiously affiliated. Yet, prior studies from Turkey show that secular Turks, who are relatively well-educated and left-leaning, display greater levels of hostility toward the roughly four million Syrian refugees in the country compared with religious conservative Turks, who are relatively undereducated and right-leaning.

In this article, I investigate the reasons for this discrepancy via a sequential mixed methods design, whereby an original survey of Istanbul residents fielded in July-August 2020 complemented four focus group discussions and eight in-depth interviews conducted with secular citizens in Istanbul in November-December 2019. A thematic analysis of the qualitative data reveals that political and lifestyle concerns play a central role in motivating negative attitudes toward refugees among secular Turks. On the one hand, these citizens view Syrian refugees as a potential voting bloc for President Erdoğan and his conservative Justice and Development Party—a bloc that may upset the political prospects of the opposition. On the other hand, they associate refugees from the Middle East with Turkey’s drift away from the liberal-democratic Western order and the concomitant deterioration of secularism and women’s rights in the country. More broadly, the findings suggest that, under certain sociopolitical conditions, the cultural identity of international migrants may be a major source of concern for left-leaning citizens with secular lifestyles who otherwise hold cosmopolitan attitudes.

Karina Chavarria
California State University Channel Islands, Assistant Professor
“My Dreams and Goals are Worthy”: Contextualizing Indigenous Oaxacan Youth’s School Integration

Despite the established presence of Indigenous immigrants in the U.S., only recently has there been concerted efforts to examine and understand their incorporation experiences, particularly the unique challenges surrounding the maintenance of their Indigenous cultural practices. Even less is known about their children’s experiences which, given the racial landscape in the U.S, may be subsumed under the Mexican/Latina/o ethno-racial category. For example, among children of Indigenous Oaxacan immigrants, many confront discriminatory interactions from mestizo Mexican school peers, specifically derogatory comments about being from Oaxaca (Barillas-Chon 2010). Understanding how children of Indigenous Oaxacan immigrants benefit from developing and retaining Indigenous cultural practices is critical to expanding our understanding of contemporary processes by which Indigenous communities and their cultures persist despite tensions associated with migration and incorporation into a U.S. racial landscape.

In exploring the cultural elements Indigenous Oaxacan immigrant youth practice, I seek to shed light on the heterogeneity of Latinx migration and challenge the erasure of Indigenous communities. Drawing on five years of ethnography as well as platicas and interviews with four Oaxacan immigrant high school students, I find that students practice three traditional Oaxacan cultural elements of dance, language, and music that nourish a strong sense of belonging grounded in their ancestral roots to Oaxaca. Their engagement with and retention of these cultural features energizes students’ pursuit of educational opportunities and achievement. I contend that Indigenous Oaxacan immigrant students’ engagement with and maintenance of traditional Oaxacan cultural elements represents more than a strong ethnic identity in that honoring and rejoicing in their Indigenous and ancestral Oaxacan roots challenges colonialist logics which continue to oppress Indigenous communities and reproduce a racial anti-Indian hatred that imperil their future prospects.