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UC Davis Experts on Immigration, Labor and Human Trafficking

By Karen Nikos-Rose on February 3, 2017 in Society, Arts & Culture

Updated June 18, 2018 in light of new developments in immigration policy and enforcement.

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 on the UC Davis news website. (“Expert Sources” are located approximately halfway down the page on the right). These resources will be updated regularly.

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,

Immigration policy 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. Contact: (530) 752-0243,

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,

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:

Psychological wellbeing of immigrants

Caitlin Patler is a sociologist looking at mental health issues of the undocumented. UC Davis researchers had found last year, for the first time, that transitioning out of undocumented status to legal status resulted in positive emotional consequences and improvements to overall psychological wellbeing. The results, published in a paper in the journal Social Science and Medicine, analyzed 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. In a more recent paper,  however, Patler and coauthors discuss new research finding that early improvements in psychological wellbeing that occurred after receiving DACA have not been sustained over time, perhaps due to uncertainty about the policy's future.   Contact: Caitlin Patler, assistant professor, sociology,

Immigration policy and the economy

Giovanni Peri, professor of economics, studies immigration’s effect on the economy, and highly skilled workers, immigration and refugees. Peri also is director of the Migration Research Cluster at UC Davis, which is co-organizing a conference on migrant labor and global health in March. Read his immigration fact blog. Contact:

Immigrant rights activism (locally, nationally and transnationally); migration

Robyn Magalit Rodriguez, professor of Asian American Studies, earned her doctoral degree at the University of California, Berkeley. She is a migration expert, approaching it from local, national, transnational and comparative perspectives. Her focus has largely been on labor migration from, to and within the Asia-Pacific region. Rodriguez’s first book, Migrants for Export: How the Philippine State Brokers Labor to the World (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010), received an honorable mention for best social science book by the Association for Asian American Studies. Her co-edited anthology (with Ulla Berg) Transnational Citizenship Across the Americas (New York: Routledge 2014) brings together labor migration research from Latin America and the Caribbean as well as Asia.

More recently, Rodriguez has paid closer attention to race and the politics of immigration in the United States. Her co-authored book (with Pawan Dhingra), Asian America: Sociological and Interdisciplinary Perspectives (Polity, 2014) is a compendium on the Asian immigration experience in the U.S. Forthcoming from Rutgers University Press is her book, In Lady Liberty’s Shadow: Race and Immigration in New Jersey, which examines post-9/11 racial and cultural politics related to Latino and Asian immigrant settlement in New Jersey’s suburbs and links these localized “border” struggles to black exclusion from the suburbs historically. Alongside her scholarly work, Rodriguez works as an immigrant rights and antiracism activist. Among the groups she supports are the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) and Migrante Northern California in the San Francisco Bay Area. Contact:

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:

Andrés Reséndez, professor of history, has published books on the history of the border between Mexico and the United States, the early colonization of the Americas, and Mexico’s history more broadly. His latest book, The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America, was a finalist for the National Book Award and was long-listed for the PEN Literary Award in nonfiction. It won the Bancroft Prize for history. Contact:

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. Contact: 530-220-3576,

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 is informed by more than 15 years of work in immigrants’ rights organizations focused on immigration detention, access to education for undocumented youth, and low-wage labor markets. UC Davis researchers have found, for the first time, that transitioning out of undocumented status to legal status results in 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. Contact:

Undocumented legal services, sanctuary campuses

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

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:

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:

Media contact(s)

Karen Nikos-Rose, UC Davis News and Media Relations, 530-219-5472,

Media Resources