Inequality in America Initiative Workshop Series: Mobility & Migration


Friday, November 2, 2018, 12:00pm to 1:30pm


William James Hall 1305, 33 Kirkland St

Hosted by Mary Waters, Harvard Sociology Dept, and featuring 

Jennifer Lee, Columbia Sociology Department
Toward Narrative Plentitude for Asian Americans

Roberto Gonzales, Harvard Graduate School of Education
DACAmented in the Age of Deportation: Navigating Spaces of Belonging and Vulnerability

A light lunch will be provided.



Jennifer Lee:  The new face of U.S. immigration is Asian, but Asian is a catch-all category that masks tremendous diversity and inequality, which is often eclipsed by medians and means. Drawing on analyses from the 2016 National Asian American Survey and AAPI Data (, Jennifer Lee shows that when we fail to disaggregate data, we reify biased narratives of the Asian Americans, including the model minority trope. Further contributing to biased narratives is Americans’ cognitive construction of Asian—or, more colloquially, who we count as Asian. She finds that Americans contract the Asian group boundary and exclude South Asians from the categorical fold. Lee discusses the consequences of boundary contraction for the narratives of Asian Americans—including their opinion of affirmative action in the context of the current lawsuit against Harvard.

Roberto GonzalesOwing to unintended consequences stemming from border security efforts, the United States is home to a large number of settled undocumented immigrants, most of whom have been in the United States for more than ten years. Their children are growing up to unprecedented levels of enforcement activity that has separated families and sown fear and anxiety in immigrant communities. While scholars have long sought to understand the adaptation processes of immigrant children, immigration policy has become increasingly consequential in shaping how immigrant youth adapt, come of age, and experience life in the United States. At the same time, undocumented immigrants have also grown roots in their communities and have developed attachments to people, places, and activities which have endowed them a sense of belonging. While scholars of immigration have traditionally relied on externally measurable markers of assimilation, how immigrants develop connections within their personal and social spheres is noteworthy, particularly amid harsh enforcement contexts.  For a segment of this population, social positionality changed with the introduction of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Drawing on interviews with 408 DACA beneficiaries, we explore the following questions: How do DACA beneficiaries experience belonging in a time of massive immigration enforcement? Do these experiences provide enough opportunities to counter feelings of vulnerability and worries of deportation? Or are exclusionary policies the overriding factor in shaping belonging? Our analyses demonstrate that these spaces hold importance in helping young people carve out lives of meaning and in fostering a sense of membership, and that DACA had a positive impact on expanding such spaces in everyday life. But, ultimately, experiences of illegality—at the individual and family level—are more consequential to an overall sense of belonging. 


Upcoming events include:

  • Friday, November 30: Work, Family, and Opportunity  hosted by Professors Sasha Killewald, Harvard Sociology Department, and Larry Katz, Harvard Economics Department
  • Friday, February 1
  • Friday, March 1
  • Friday, March 29
  • (Additional Date TBD)