Immigration Initiative to spur cross-University research and policy leadership


3 min read

The Immigration Initiative at Harvard (IIH),  a new university-wide effort launching this fall, 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.

“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.”

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.”

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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.

Initial funding for the IIH comes 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.”

Save the date: The Immigration Initiative at Harvard will host Humanitarianism and Mass Migration: Confronting the World Crisis at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, with UCLA’s Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, on Oct. 1, 5:30–7 p.m.