Social Studies

Migration and Migrants in Terrifying Times: Confronting Challenges, Centering Solutions

We spoke with members of the “Migration and Migrants in Terrifying Times Project” about contemporary immigraton, migrants’ lived experiences, and new challenges in this political moment. Read more below!

The Migration and Migrants in Terrifying Times Project focuses on the challenges and obstacles faced by immigrants, as well as the broader importance and nature of immigration today. Scholars and analysts collaborate with community members, state employees, and activists to research a variety of factors surrounding immigration and migrants’ lives. This spans from studying large scale discourses to highlighting individuals’ experiences and local processes in specific communities. The project members use this multifaceted approach to directly address issues that affect migrants and society at large, a timely endeavor given the way rhetoric and policy surrounding immigration can overlook data, outcomes, and immigrants’ lived experiences. This leads to misinformation that facilitates harmful practices, and immigrants facing increasing scrutiny and hostility. Thus, this project is a collective space for scholars, activists, and community members to support one another in these terrifying times.

Principal investigators for this project include Professors Jack DeWaard, Erica Lee, and Ryan Allen. They model their approach on the UMN Law School’s Minnesota Human Rights Lab to foreground the importance of human rights and equity-driven research. DeWaard, Lee, and Allen work with members of the University of Minnesota student body, as well as people in the surrounding community of Minneapolis, to study the lived experiences of local immigrants, processes of immigration enforcement, and broader discourses surrounding immigration today. Faculty, graduate students, writers, community organizers, and state employees work in a cooperative, workshop-based environment to share ideas, address new questions, and draw on different approaches to address the challenges that immigrants face.

Despite sharing a common goal–addressing challenges faced by migrants and finding solutions to these challenges – project members focus on different topics, and draw on a variety of research methods and data. For example, some focus on lived experiences, local communities, and the social processes that shape migrants’ lives, such as immigration court and legal proceedings for citizenship. Other project members focus on discourses and beliefs surrounding immigration in national media, drawing on iconic newspapers or politicians’ statements. Some project members work in government positions related to refugee incorporation and resettlement, and they connect these processes to larger research questions and goals.

The project members’ multilevel framework and interdisciplinary approach is well-suited to study the complex processes, and institutions which shape immigration and migrants’ lives. The researchers, professionals, and activists involved in this project hope that their work can produce important knowledge about immigrants and contribute to broader conversations with data-driven findings. By collaborating with those who are directly affected by changes in policy and centering their well-being, The Migration and Migrants in Terrifying Times project can improve governmental policy and public understandings of immigration in ways which promote human rights, equity, and respect.

Faculty, staff, students, and practitioners in and members of the community are welcome to join members of the project at their bi-weekly meetings on Monday from 11:30am-1:00pm in 131B Bruininks Hall. Please email to be added to the project’s email-listserv and receive announcements, and be sure to attend the Migration and Migrants in Terrifying Times Symposium on Thursday Dec 13; see the flyer below!

Be sure to read about other UMN research projects at “Research with Minnesota” on TheSocietyPages!