Congratulations MIMS Class of 2018

We are proud to present our first cohort of graduates along with descriptions of their research and applied projects.  We are honored to be part of their visions and calls for improved human and immigrant rights.



Andrea Portillo

Dreams sin Fronteras: Exploring the Lives and Experiences of Five Returned Migrants in Mexico

Due to an unprecedented number of deportations in the last decade, coupled with a recent fall in net migration from Mexico, return migration from the United States to Mexico has made its way to the forefront of the immigration discourse. Andrea’s research draws on the experiences of five Mexican migrants who have returned to Mexico, “voluntarily” or through deportation proceedings, to argue that the stories and experiences of returned migrants can provide insight into the challenges/successes of life post-return.

In doing so, her article draws parallels between the personal experiences of these five returnees and the broader discourse on return migration, to highlight the significance that eliminating policies like DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) can have for the undocumented community within the United States. The experiences shared by returnees highlighted that upon return, many struggle to “reintegrate” into Mexican society, grapple with financial instability but manage to further their education, and in general remain hopeful about their futures. These findings suggest that while life for returnees is difficult, many continue to strive to achieve the same dreams they have been working toward.



Eric Beasley

Overlooking Men and Boys in Forced Criminality at the Border: A Content Analysis of Human Trafficking Training and Awareness Materials

In the Post 9/11 era, where American security is intimately linked to a militarized border management system designed to protect the United States and its territories from threats of terrorism, illegal drugs, and illegal immigration, the media continues to perpetuate the “Latino Threat Narrative” for national consumption. Eric’s research explores how the ‘Latino Threat Narrative’ and inherent gender biases shape how the Department of Homeland Security understands vulnerability and identifies human trafficking victims, particularly men and boys from Mexico and Central America, who are victims of forced criminality.

Drawing on current literature and by conducting a content analysis of human trafficking training and awareness materials made publicly available on the website of the Department of Homeland Security, his research explains how and why men and boys are looked upon with suspicion and are overlooked as victims of human trafficking and forced criminality. He concludes by offering recommendations for improving reporting procedures as well as best practices for raising awareness about these important and harmful issues.



Karina Castro

On the Front Lines: Service Providers Respond to the Haitian Refugee Crisis

Long known as a city of migrants, with its diversity of peoples and interlacing cultures, Tijuana was still unprepared for the arrival of Haitians to Baja California in 2016. At that moment, Tijuana faced the unforeseen and unexpected arrival of approximately 15,000 Haitians to the region, which immediately became a humanitarian crisis. While the Mexican government denied the severity of the situation, service providers understood its gravity. Thirty-six shelters, some well established and others newly improvised, took action upon themselves to help the arriving refugees.

Karina’s research explores the role policies played in the work of service providers as they worked to integrate this population by addressing their immediate needs, such as food and shelter, but ultimately lacked structures and vision to address their long term needs as they settled in Tijuana instead of being able to reach their final destination across the border to the U.S. and incorporated into shelter systems developed to serve other migrant populations including daily deportees and internally displaced people.



Kathryn Rose Gaines

The Power of Story: Digital Storytelling with Migrant Women in the Era of Trump

Working in partnership with StoryCenter in Berkeley, California, Katy was able to facilitate a three-day workshop in which five migrant women came together to share their experiences and transform their memories into short audiovisual projects in a series they call Stories of Resistance. The premise of the workshops is that sharing first person narratives gives storytellers the opportunity to build solidarity within and between migrant groups, as well as educate non-migrant populations and policymakers about the realities of the transnational migrant experience. This methodology allows for a greater democratization of media technology that she believes is necessary to change the discourse on migration and add to the archive of positive and humanizing migration stories. She aims to encourage multimedia activism, education and creative expression through this scalable, grassroots model.

Katy plans on continuing Stories of Resistance through 2018 and into 2019. As an applied project, she submitted an application to secure further grant funding to continue to build upon the program which would allow storytellers from the pilot program to receive training to co-facilitate workshops within their own communities. Upon completion of this series, all of the stories will be shared with the public in both community screenings and gallery exhibits.



Maria Silva

Case Management, Resources and Support (CARES) for Asylum Seekers: An Applied Project of and with the Kino Border Initiative 

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the backlog of asylum claims surpassed 200,000 in 2016. A total of 63,773 defensive asylum applications were filed in 2016 alone; 158 attempts to file a claim that year occurred at the Nogales, Arizona port of entry with the assistance of the Kino Border Initiative (KBI). The KBI provides comprehensive services to deported and in transit migrants in Nogales, Sonora.

Maria set out to help develop the CARES (Case Management, Resources and Support)  Project in response to the KBI’s expressed need to expand support services to individuals seeking asylum at the Nogales port of entry and uphold the rights of asylum seekers by providing resources, assistance and accompaniment throughout every step of the process. Aside from providing asylum seekers information regarding the application process, CARES was designed to increase the KBI’s capacity to provide adequate follow up and integration resources upon admission to the United States. CARES serves the additional purpose of collecting data regarding immigration patterns and practices at the Nogales border. KBI can utilize this data to influence comprehensive local, national and international immigration policy.



Michell Figueroa

Cuisjleños in Santa Ana: Exploring Identity and Blackness Among the Costeño Afro-Mexican Migrant in California

Mexico is one of the countries within Latin America that is continuously denying the existence of people of African descent in their borders. The legacy of slavery in Mexico has caused people of African descent in Mexico to suffer constant violations of human rights and structural inequality. These conditions keep Afro-Mexican people invisible, isolated, and in deep poverty along the Costa Chica of Guerrero and Oaxaca. For most, the only option to get out of that deep poverty is to emigrate.

Since the 1980s Afro-Mexicans have built intimate migrant communities in California, Illinois, and North Carolina. At first glance, many Americans and non-black mestizo Mexicans do not recognize Costeño Afromexicanos as Mexican. Afro-Mexicans are often mistaken for other groups of African heritage, like Afro-Caribbeans and African Americans. These experiences add to the feeling of invisibility that Afro-Mexican communities experienced in Mexico and demonstrate that their invisibility continues when they arrive in the United States. Michelle’s ethnography gives detailed account of Afro-Mexican migrant life in Santa Ana, California and sheds light on the strategies they have created to maintain and reproduce their identity.



Nadia Naghedi Basradaran Hajjar

“Unwanted in My Own Country”: Testimonies of Identity and Belonging-Negotiations in a Post-Trump America

Through an ethnographically informed study, Nadia investigated how significant political events in the recent history of the United States have impacted the lives of first and second-generation Middle Eastern Muslim women. Nadia was able to conduct 11 in-depth interviews with women ages 19 – 65, living in the greater Los Angeles area over the course of 2017. The interviews involved three distinct topics: the aftermath of 9/11, the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, and President Trump’s “Muslim” travel ban executive orders.

Positioned in a framework that would allow her to examine the role that racial and ethnic discrimination has had on the lives of this particular niche community, her research data showed the diverse perceived personal impact felt of these events on the participants’ lives. Themes that developed over the course of her research included topics relating to the participant’s ethnic and religious identities, their sense of belonging, and overt and underlying xenophobic and Islamophobic pressures felt within their communities, as well as diverse reactions and coping strategies based on generational differences and how much they follow the news and social issues.



Nora Alicia Castañeda

Mexican Roots; U.S. Dreams: Mexico’s Response to the Enrollment of U.S. Citizen Children in their Education System

Increased deportation orders and arrests along with a hostile political climate have led more Mexican nationals to return to their home country and they are taking their U.S. citizen children with them. The first part of Nora’s work analyzes the change and continuity of U.S. immigration policies which have led to this return migration. The second part of her research focuses on Mexico’s response to the enrollment of U.S. citizen children in their education system. Working exclusively with the Programa Binacional de Education del Migrante (PROBEM) in the border city of Tijuana, Baja California, she was able to conduct interviews with educators and volunteers from support groups coordinated by PROBEM.

Her paper highlights five major themes. 1) The language barrier between students and educators due to inadequate English training 2) Lack of bilingual education 3) Teacher insensitivity towards migrant students 4) Student invisibility 5) Lack of diffusion of information from the Secretary of Education to the individual school districts. Such themes indicate that the Mexican government continues to lack capacity in managing the integration of U.S. citizen children in the Mexican education system.



Rita Ewing

From Davao City to Daly city: Examining Translanguaging and Transnationalism in the 1.5-Generation Fillipin(a/o) Americans of Daly City

Applying an intersectional framework of post-colonial narrative and linguistic anthropology to transnational migration, Rita’s research investigates how the transnational immigrant deploys language and place value on their heritage and second languages, and reflexively deploy their language sets to reflect their unique positionality. Her thesis is a case study examination of five adult members of the 1.5-generation of Filipin(a/o) American immigrants, who immigrated to the US before the age of eighteen and have academic, employment, or residential affiliation with the Filipin(a/o) diaspora of Daly City, California.

Through data analysis of oral histories collected through in-depth sociolinguistic interviews, her study uses these nostalgic perspectives to better understand how the relationship between language and identity formation is affected by socio-spatial experiences. By examining the intergenerational, post-colonial and transnational interplay of the narrator’s language ideologies, her study uses the archive to demonstrate the transformative power of memory to project the immigrant experience to show how  translanguaging, or the cognizant, situational deployment of a multilingual repertoire, reflects transnational identity formation.

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