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James Marshall Fellow Update
Jutta Tobias

At SPSSI’s last Council meeting, we discussed how helpful it is for social justice research to actively involve community members in our efforts to understand the social world we live in. Through Participatory Action Research (PAR) and other methodologies whereby the objects of our research turn into genuine subjects whose agency is reflected in research designs as well as its outcomes, we strive to keep our research relevant to the important social issues of our time. In this spirit, I report of a recent research analysis I conducted as part of my SPSSI fellowship.

Using a Grounded Theory approach, I conducted a meta-inquiry of the landscape of the federal policy debate relating to immigration reform, alongside an exchange with SPSSI expert scholars on research relating to immigration. My goal in this was three-fold; to educate U.S. policy-makers about SPSSI’s scientific expertise, and to feed back to interested SPSSI members what new research may be helpful to inform sound policy. My second goal was formed after my first few conversations with immigration policy makers, as it seemed that new and additional research avenues may be worthwhile research topics for SPSSI members, and sought-after by policy-makers in Washington. Finally, I would like to offer my services as broker of new research partnerships between SPSSI scholars and D.C.-based immigration policy groups.
Below is a summary of my analysis of the current policy ‘pulse’ specifically related to additional research themes of importance to the immigration debate, which I hope will be useful food for thought for SPSSI’s immigration researchers.

As suggested by Glaser (1978), I started this discovery process with a minimum of predetermined ideas, open to the discovery of new knowledge. Through semi-structured interviews with a selection of national immigration advocacy groups and relevant Congressional offices, I discovered the following themes, or questions that immigration policy agenda-setters grapple with: 1) National immigration advocacy groups, as well as Congressional offices working on immigration reform initiatives, seem interested in more scientific data on current U.S. immigration apprehension and detention policies on the psychosocial effects on immigrant families and host communities; 2) What is the effect of different immigration groups on economic outcomes and social cohesion in communities; 3) How do particular message frames shape immigration attitudes among the general public; and 4) How experiences in other countries can inform U.S. immigration policy. More information is available at

In conclusion, I hope that this report assists SPSSI researchers to develop new theories and to conduct immigration research that reflects the Grounded Theory principle of understanding and appreciating data collection in its relevance to the ecology and meaning-making of the ‘beneficiaries’ of immigration research for their work. 


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