UC Davis Experts on Immigration, Labor and Human Trafficking

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The following University of California, Davis, experts on immigration policy are available to speak to the news media. Keep an eye on this and other current expert lists at www.ucdavis.edu/news under "experts" tab. These resources will be updated regularly. This list updated August 2022.

Rights of detained immigrants

Holly S. Cooper, co-director of the Immigration Law Clinic at the School of Law, has extensive litigation experience defending the rights of immigrants and is a nationally recognized expert on immigration detention issues, including the rights of federally detained immigrants, as well as the immigration consequences of criminal convictions. She also works with refugees at the intersection of the criminal and immigration justice systems. Contact: 530-754-4833, hscooper@ucdavis.edu.

Immigration law and policy, reform, DACA, U.S. Mexico border and civil rights

Kevin Johnson, dean and the Mabie-Apallas Professor of Public Interest Law and Chicano/a Studies at the UC Davis School of Law, is one of the nation’s leading immigration law scholars. He is co-editor of the influential Immigration Prof Blog, and co-author of Understanding Immigration Law (2009) (third edition, 2019), and Immigration Law and the US-Mexico Border (2011) (Latino Literacy Now’s International Latino Book Awards – Best Reference Book). He posted this blog on the San Antonio tragic deaths in June 2022 here. Contact: (530) 752-0243, krjohnson@ucdavis.edu.

Immigration policy, criminal law, immigration history and race

Gabriel “Jack” Chin, professor of law, is a prolific and much-cited legal scholar whose interests include immigration law, criminal law and procedure, and race and the law. He can speak to the ways in which criminal law and immigration law intersect, as well as the constitutional implications of immigration policy. Contact: (530) 752-3112, gjchin@ucdavis.edu.

Immigration policy and public opinion

Bradford Jones, professor of political science in the College of Letters and Science, is an expert on U.S. immigration policy, and in particular U.S.-Mexico border policy. His research focuses on immigration policy making at the federal, state, and local levels as well as public opinion regarding immigration policy and immigrants more generally.  Jones is also an expert on the issue of migrant deaths on the U.S.-Mexico border. Apart from teaching and researching issues related to immigration and Latina/o politics, he is an authorized driver for Humane Borders, a Tucson-based humanitarian organization. Contact: bsjjones@ucdavis.edu.

Children and trauma (family separation at borders)

Leah Hibel, associate professor of human development, Department of Human Ecology, studies the impact of stress and trauma on children and families. She has studied stressors such as poverty, marital conflict and violence, and child abuse/maltreatment. In addition to her research and teaching on issues related to stressful early life experiences, she has also partnered with various child welfare agencies to conduct trainings with social workers who deal with traumatized children. She is also a foster mother for Yolo County. Contact: lchibel@ucdavis.edu

Immigration detention, undocumented youth, health and wellbeing of undocumented

Caitlin Patler, assistant professor of sociology, can discuss immigration detention policy, executive action on deferred action programs (DACA and DAPA), and the situation of undocumented youth and families. Patler's research documented, for the first time, that transitioning out of undocumented status to legal status can lead to positive emotional consequences and improvements to overall psychological wellbeing. The results, published in a paper in the journal Social Science and Medicine, analyze the health impacts of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, comparing DACA program recipients to undocumented young people who did not have DACA status. Similar research, "Uncertainty About DACA May Undermine Its Positive Impact on Health For Recipients and Their Children," was published in the journal, Health Affairs, in May 2019. Patler's research has also documented conditions within immigrant detention facilities, including inequality in access to family visitation, published in RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, as well as disproportionate use of solitary confinement ( Journal of Population Research). Patler’s research is informed by nearly two decades of work in immigrants’ rights organizations focused on immigration detention, access to education for undocumented youth, and low-wage labor markets. 

August 24, 2022, the Biden Administration issued a final rule on the DACA program with the goal to "preserve and fortify" the DACA program. The administration's memorandum about the rule includes citations to academic research on DACA, including work by UC Davis Sociology professors Erin Hamilton (See bio below) and Patler. The final rule can be found here: https://public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2022-18401.pdf citing this article: "Transition into liminal legality: DACA’s mixed impacts on education and employment among young adult immigrants in
California," in the journal Social Problems.

Contact: patler@ucdavis.edu.

Erin Hamilton, associate professor of sociology, studies when, how and why people migrate. She is an affiliate of the UC Davis Center for Poverty and Inequality Research, the UC Davis Global Migration Center, and the Hemispheric Institute on the Americas. She is the co-author, with Robert Hummer, of Population Health in America. Contact: erhamilton@ucdavis.edu

Immigration policy and the economy

Giovanni Peri, professor of economics, studies immigration’s effect on the economy, and highly skilled workers, students and refugees. Peri also is director of the Migration Research Cluster at UC Davis. Read his immigration fact blog. Read a policy paper the implications of forcing foreign students out of the United States. Contact: gperi@ucdavis.edu.

Deportation, family reunification, migrants in Tijuana, Central American asylum

Robert Irwin, professor of Spanish, is a scholar on migration and border studies, gender and sexuality studies, and digital storytelling. He is co-director of the Mellon Initiative in Comparative Border Studies. As U.S. policymakers struggle to find a policy solution to address the restrictions on legal immigration that lead to undocumented immigration, deportations have become a reality affecting the lives of millions of immigrants and local communities. Irwin heads up a project that tells this story, "Humanizing Deportation," which includes video stories of those who have been deported abruptly and the adjustments they have had to make to life in a country with which they are unfamiliar. See this story for more details. He has written several opinion pieces and the challenges of migrants. Contact: rmirwin@ucdavis.edu

Immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border

Rachel St. John, professor of history, is an expert on the history of the U.S.-Mexico border and can speak about the history of the southern border, border control, border walls and fences, immigration and transborder movement, and border issues in general. Her first book, Line in the Sand: A History of the Western U.S.-Mexico Border, was published in 2011. She has spoken about border issues on NPR, and her work has been published in a variety of historical journals. Contact: rcstjohn@ucdavis.edu.

Human smuggling

David Kyle, professor of sociology, is an expert on human smuggling and trafficking of people globally. His volume on the topic, Global Human Smuggling: Comparative Perspectives, is now in its second edition, and a third edition is in the works. A documentary on the book that aired on PBS and other outlets was called Dying to Leave. He was interviewed on CNN International in July 2017 regarding the case of a human trafficking operation discovered in San Antonio, Texas, that killed 10 people and has continued to be interviewed by major publications and network television on human trafficking operations in breaking news. Contact: 530-220-3576, DJkyle@ucdavis.edu.

Migrant children, schools, and educational inequality

Jacob Hibel, associate professor of sociology and Chancellor’s Fellow, studies the educational consequences of large-scale immigration for children, communities, and school systems. He has published research on the links between community immigration context and Mexican American children’s early academic development; the associations among Latino immigrant flows, “white flight,” and charter, magnet, and private school enrollments; Latino-White school segregation; and immigrant-native disparities in children’s school readiness. He is currently investigating the connections between school districts’ immigration histories and students’ access to special education, gifted/talented, and English language acquisition services. This project involves quantitative and qualitative studies that will: 1) evaluate the extent to which ethnoracial, linguistic, and immigrant–native inequalities in special service provision are shaped by communities’ immigration contexts; 2) assess the relationship between California school districts’ demographic contexts and their adoption of policies and practices aimed at mitigating these inequalities; and 3) identify the most salient opportunities and obstacles facing California educators in their efforts to secure first and second generation children’s access to special education services. Contact: jhibel@ucdavis.edu

Undocumented legal services, sanctuary campuses

María Blanco, executive director, undocumented legal services, can talk about DACA, dreamers and sanctuary campuses. Contact: mablanco@ucdavis.edu.

Labor and immigration

Philip Martin, professor of agricultural and resource economics, has published extensively on labor, migration, economic development and immigration policy issues. He has testified before Congress and state and local agencies on these issues, particularly as they relate to agricultural labor. Martin edits Migration News and Rural Migration News, which provide information about global and U.S. migration issues. A program on CNN features Martin’s expertise. Contact: plmartin@ucdavis.edu.

Immigration, farm labor and rural poverty

Agricultural and resource economics professor J. Edward Taylor studies migration and its impacts on Pacific Rim countries, specifically Mexico, Central America and Ecuador. His most recent work documents a decline in farm labor supply from rural Mexican households, which has far-reaching implications for U.S. agriculture, immigration policy and the fate of rural communities. He co-wrote, with UC Davis Professor Philip Martin and Urban Institute researcher Michael Fix, the book, The New Rural Poverty. Contact: taylor@primal.ucdavis.edu.

Media Resources

Media contact:

  • Karen Nikos-Rose, kmnikos@ucdavis.edu

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