Immigration and Citizenship

Penn’s Social Science and Policy Forum tackles the hot-button issue.
October 1, 2013

Among the hot-button issues in America, immigration is one of the most divisive. Viewed as political kryptonite, politicians often use buzzwords like “fence” and “amnesty,” but immigration policy remains largely untouched. What do scholars have to say on the subject? How do we go about dissecting such a complex, worldwide challenge?

Penn’s Social Science and Policy Forum (SSPF), an initiative designed to engage social scientists from every corner of the University. Launched in 2012, the Forum is an interdisciplinary hub for scholarly research on key social, economic, legal, and policy problems facing the U.S. and the world. Using workshops, public lectures, annual conferences, and innovative courses, it aims to engage a diverse audience both within the University and in the wider community.

This year’s theme, “Immigration and Citizenship,” addresses the debate on all fronts, hosting scholars with international expertise. “We put together a diverse group of academics involved in all kinds of disciplines and policy discussions,” says Professor of Sociology Emilio Parrado, an expert in international immigration and social and demographic change in Latin America, and a member of this year’s SSPF planning committee. “This includes historians, economists, political scientists, race and ethnic relations experts and people dealing with education and the law—we wanted a lot of different perspectives.”

Guest speakers include Dowell Myers, Professor of Policy, Planning and Demography at the University of Southern California, who uses demographic data—census, surveys, and projections—to interpret future trends in housing, workforce, education, taxpaying, voting, and immigration. Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco, Dean and Distinguished Professor of Education at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, will focus on challenges of identity in second-generation immigrants. Mae M. Ngai, Professor of History and Lung Family Professor of Asian American Studies at Columbia University, analyzes the legal system’s interpretation of immigration to better understand the concept of citizenship. Stephen Castles will bring an international perspective: As Research Chair in Sociology at the University of Sydney, he is conducting the five-year research project, “Social Transformation and International Migration in the 21st Century,” with fieldwork in Australia, Ghana, Mexico, and the Republic of Korea. 

Penn speakers include Devesh Kapur, Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the Center for the Advanced Study of India. Kapur’s research focuses on human capital, national and international public institutions, and the ways in which local-global linkages affect political and economic change in developing countries. His books include Diaspora, Democracy and Development: The Impact of International Migration from India on India and Give Us Your Best and Brightest: The Global Hunt for Talent and Its Impact on the Developing World.

The Forum also awards post-doctoral and pre-dissertation fellowships to students with innovative research proposals. Post-doc Laurencio Sanguino deals with Mexican immigration to the U.S. on a historical level, while James Walsh studies immigration across the U.S., Canada and Australia, and how the U.S. political system affects assimilation.

Next year’s SSPF theme, “New Media: Possibilities and Limitations,” will continue the SSPF’s goal of tackling cutting-edge issues. “Each of our themes draws upon the work our scholars are doing around the University,” says Thomas Sugrue, David Boies Professor of History, “as well as the broader social interests of our surrounding community.”

Click here for the complete events schedule.