Research News

New steps in immigration reform: Vanderbilt experts available

Congress and President Obama are taking up the debate over comprehensive immigration reform yet again. Vanderbilt has a diverse array of experts researching various aspects of the immigration debate.

Katharine Donato
Katharine Donato (Vanderbilt University)

Professor of sociology Katharine Donato studies how United States and Mexican immigration policies affect both countries – particularly in the areas of employment, education, health and social services. About two-thirds of the United States’ immigrant population comes from Mexico, and they are facing tougher U.S. immigration polices than two decades ago when federal legislation designed to reduce undocumented workers was first passed. Donato says stricter border controls result in more unauthorized migrants in the United States, and she is optimistic about the newly emerging bipartisan efforts toward immigration reform. She has written numerous papers on immigration and, last year, she published a paper, “What Do We Know About Undocumented Migration?” (Annual Review of Sociology). She edited and contributed to a special volume called Continental Divides: International Migration in the Americas.

Carol Swain
Carol Swain (Courtesy Vanderbilt University Law School)

Professor of political science and law Carol Swain has written and studied immigration reform in the United States. She thinks President Obama’s push for one step immigration reform is a mistake. “The proposed immigration proposals recycle old ideas, while avoiding thorny issues. Until policy makers undertake a cost/benefit analysis of the impact of mass legalization on entitlement programs and employment prospects of native-born workers, they cannot effectively reform immigration. Stiffer penalties for being in the country illegally, chain immigration through family reunification, and the impact on African Americans and legal immigrants must be part of the discussion,” said Swain.

Swain edited and contributed to a book of essays called Debating Immigration. There she said that illegal immigration is hurting African Americans because they are losing more jobs to illegal immigrants than other racial or ethnic groups, yet low income black workers don’t have political input in the debate. See a video of Swain in the VUStar studio.

Efren Perez
Efren Perez (Vanderbilt)

Assistant professor of political science Efrén O. Pérez‘s research encompasses political psychology and public opinion, with an emphasis on racial and ethnic politics. Pérez’s current research includes a book on implicit bias and U.S. immigration politics, which is funded by the National Science Foundation. Pérez is cautiously optimistic about the prospect of immigration reform, but he doesn’t think that House legislators who strongly opposed immigration reform last time around are going to pass any meaningful reforms.

“Now, people will say that Republicans have had a change of heart because of their poor showing among Latinos. The problem is that Republicans never win a majority of the Latino vote. Simply put, if immigration reform passes, it is more likely to help Democrats, not Republicans, win over more Latinos,” said Pérez. See a video of Pérez explaining what’s wrong with our current immigration policy in the VUStar studio.