Former CCIS Researcher Whitney L. Duncan’s new work on mental health issues in Mexico highlighted by UC Global Health Institute

Former CCIS Researcher Whitney L. Duncan’s new work on mental health issues in Mexico highlighted by UC Global Health Institute.


Whitney L. Duncan, MA

PhD Candidate, Anthropology
UC San Diego

To tackle formidable problems in global health, scholars come from a wide range of disciplines. PhD candidate Whitney Duncan never guessed as an English Literature major at Columbia University that she would be conducting studies on mental health and migration in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Duncan worked as a freelance writer and editor for several years after graduating. Her experience at El Diario, a Spanish language newspaper in New York, combined with growing involvement with the migrant farmworker community in the Hudson Valley, solidified her interest in working with the Latino community.

“I wanted a deeper understanding of the issues I was drawn to journalistically, particularly migration and mental health,” says Duncan. “I felt strongly about approaching these problems through long-term research on both sides of the border.”

She decided to pursue a PhD in anthropology, and says she was fortunate to be able to do so in San Diego. “Because of the large Mexican migrant population in the area, I was able to begin volunteering and researching early on in graduate school,” she says.

Her Master’s thesis was based on work with an support group for Mexican migrant women. While completing her thesis, Whitney began volunteering at the Bayside Community Center, which offers English and Spanish courses for Mixteco (indigenous people from the region of La Mixteca) migrants, setting the stage for her research in Oaxaca. While in Oaxaca on a Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowship to study the Mixtec language, Whitney was drawn to what seemed like a proliferation of psychiatric and psychological services.

“Oaxaca is known for its thriving tradition of indigenous medicine,” she says. “The new popularity of mental healthcare struck me as a historical change that was probably impacting local culture and understandings of illness in important ways. I also wondered if and how the shift was related to migration.”

She received a National Science Foundation grant to conduct fieldwork on the changing landscape of mental health in Oaxaca, and is currently writing her dissertation.

Reflecting on her research, Whitney recalls meeting patients—many of them former migrants—who traveled long distances to seek care at a psychiatric hospital outside Oaxaca City.

“Many people came from communities over eight hours away for a 30-minute appointment,” says Duncan. “Clearly, despite the sudden growth in services, access to mental healthcare remains an issue.” Whitney’s work highlights the importance of understanding the social determinants of health as well as the risks and benefits of globalizing approaches to health care.

Duncan presented findings from her research at the first-ever UC Global Health Day last November (see video).

In addition to conducting her own research, Whitney has collaborated with the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies (CCIS) at UCSD. From 2007-2008 and in 2011, she worked with the Center’s Mexican Migration Field Research Program (MMFRP) in San Miguel Tlacotepec, Oaxaca. They are currently writing their second book about the effects of migration on the community.

“UC San Diego turned out to be the best place for what I am doing – and CCIS has been a great resource,” says Duncan.

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South Carolina Latest State To Enact A Controversial Immigration Law

As a Republican-controlled state, South Carolina has been added to the list of states being sued over their controversial immigration laws.

In the meantime, Congress has been deadlocked on immigration reform, with no major changes after a reform effort fell apart in 2007.

CCIS Director John Skrentny provides background.



WASHINGTON — Gov. Nikki Haley added South Carolina to the list of Republican-controlled states to implement harsh immigration laws when she signed her state’s copycat bill to Arizona’s SB 1070 on Monday despite objections from a coalition of 21 faith and civil rights groups.

South Carolina is now poised to join Arizona, Georgia and Texas, all of which are being sued over their immigration measures, with lawsuits threatened by the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Immigration Law Center and other advocacy groups.

“It invites racial profiling,” said Victoria Middleton, director of the ACLU of South Carolina. “And it basically will subject anyone who looks or sounds foreign to discrimination.”

The South Carolina legislation was modeled off of the infamous SB 1070 Arizona immigration enforcement law, empowering local police to ask for documents to prove a person’s legal status. Police can check the status of anyone they suspect to be in the country illegally during an arrest or a traffic stop for anything other than speeding.

Also on Monday, a federal judge in Georgia blocked parts of the state’s similar immigration crackdown law — including the provision that allowed local police to check a person’s legal status and a measure that punished anyone who knowingly harbored an illegal immigrant.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Thrash questioned the intent of the Georgia government and whether it could effectively carry out an immigration overhaul as a state. He ultimately wrote that the state was entering federal jurisdiction.

“I mean, you are not going to have 50 systems of immigration regulation,” Thrash said last Monday in court. “In Georgia, you are going to have 159. Every county, every municipality is going to decide what its immigration policy is going to be under this law.”

South Carolina and Georgia are two of the 26 states to introduce bills copying Arizona’s SB 1070, but so far none have been successfully implemented, according to the Latino advocacy organization National Council of La Raza. Many states sought various immigration reforms this year, emboldened by the Republican sweeps in legislatures and governor’s offices throughout the country in 2010, but the reforms were wiped out in legislatures that focused on the economy and other issues during their sessions.

In the meantime, Congress has been deadlocked on immigration reform, with no major changes after a reform effort fell apart in 2007. Even incremental changes to the immigration system, such as the DREAM Act to legalize some undocumented young people who came to the United States as children, have been unable to pass the Senate.

Instead, the government continues to ramp up enforcement along the border to appease “restrictionists” who refuse to sign onto anything that includes legalization of the immigrants already in the U.S. until the border is completely sealed, said John D. Skrentny, director at the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies and a professor of sociology at University of California-San Diego.

“And so we keep throwing resources at the border and meanwhile advocates for immigrants keep saying, ‘Well look, this is bad for immigrants, they’re being exploited, it’s bad for American workers, they can be undercut. We gotta legalize these people, and many of them have been here for many years,'” Skrentny said. “So they’re at a deadlock on this.”

This led to frustration at the state level, where some legislatures have attempted to tackle illegal immigration on their own.

“Obviously this comes out of a frustration that I think everybody has over the broken immigration system,” said Elena Lacayo, immigration field coordinator for La Raza. “Everyone, I think, on both sides of the issue are very, very frustrated with what we have now. The status quo is clearly terrible for a lot of people — immigrants I think, especially — but a lot of other folks are concerned about what the consequences of the undocumented population [are].”

Other state-level proposals included cutting off public benefits and in-state tuition assistance for illegal immigrants. But states have also gone the other way, such as Maryland expanding tuition assistance and several opting out of the Secure Communities program, which checks for legal status whenever someone is detained.

“I’m not sure that there was any one thing that triggered state and local governments to get involved,” said Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

Mehlman argued states have acted because in the absence of Congressional action, they are the ones paying for immigrants’ education, emergency health care, and other services removed from the federal government’s eye.

“You have this dichotomy here where the federal government is charged with responsibility of making and enforcing immigration laws; state and local governments wind up bearing the burdens of illegal immigration,” he said.

But states are also getting entangled in expensive legal fees as these tough immigration laws get challenged in court. Farmers Branch, Texas, a town of about 26,000, spent more than $3 million defending a 2006 ordinance that fines landlords who rent to illegal aliens and allows local authorities to screen illegal aliens in police custody. The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) assisted the town, as well as one in Pennsylvania in a similar battle.

Alabama passed a law like the Farmers Branch ordinance, which would potentially place a landlord in prison for up to 20 years if caught knowingly renting to undocumented immigrants. The Alabama law landed the state with a lawsuit from the ACLU.

Beyond costly lawsuits, though, there are other monetary risks to implementing a controversial immigration law modeled after Arizona’s, Lacayo said.

Religious groups, civil rights activists and the Mexican government have all actively petitioned against South Carolina’s new law, arguing the bill spends $1.3 million to create a statewide immigration police force, in addition to the legal costs to defend the lawsuit.

“We see a coalition of religious groups, business groups, that have really seen the impact of SB 1070’s law on Arizona’s economy and tourism and industry, and they’re really saying, ‘Well, we don’t want that in our state,'” she said. “And also the fact that a lot of states are facing budget problems and these measures aren’t free.”

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The Politics of Naturalization in Europe, Asia, and North America

Introduction and Panel 1. Europe

Panel 2. North America

Panel 3. Asia

Conference Report »

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UC San Diego. May 20, 2011.

The Weaver Conference Center.

How do liberal states make immigrants into nationals? For some observers, a postnational future beckons in which universal rights of personhood strip national identity of its relevance for claiming the rights of citizenship. According to others, transnational migrants can pick and choose their affiliations to multiple polities. For still others, differences between liberal states are becoming obsolete either because official multiculturalism renders the idea of national core cultures illegitimate or the universalistic qualities of liberalism strips states of their national distinction. Even among scholars of nationality and citizenship, the issue of making national difference is often elided by a focus on those features of nationality law that are converging across liberal states.

To what extent is there a convergence in naturalization policies among liberal states that receive large numbers of immigrants? What explains the variation or convergence?

The Center for Comparative Immigration Studies at the University of California, San Diego, will host a conference to assess these questions on Friday, May 20, 2011. Funding is provided by a UCSD International, Comparative, and Area Studies (IIACAS) and Worldwide Universities Network (WUN) International Collaborative Research grant.

In order to RSVP for the event, please contact Ana Minvielle at

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“The Politics of Naturalization in Europe, Asia, and North America”

May 20, 2011 at CCIS

SCHEDULE (Rooms subject to change):



David FitzGerald, UC San Diego



Maarten Vink, Universiteit Maastricht, on national variation in the EU

Sara Wallace Goodman, UC Irvine, on citizenship tests in the EU

Alberto Martín-Pérez, University of Barcelona

Discussant: Jon Fox, University of Bristol





Hiroshi Motomura, UCLA, on the U.S. case

Catherine Dauvergne, University of British Columbia, on the Canadian case

Discussant: Irene Bloemraad, UC Berkeley





Kamal Sadiq, UC Irvine

John Skrentny and Gary Lee, UC San Diego

Discussant: Mara Loveman, University of Wisconsin

Ruben J. Garcia – Labor’s Approach to Immigration: How Does Law Matter?


Labor’s Approach to Immigration: How Does Law Matter?

Seminar to be held in ERC 115 at 2:00 pm.
While many U.S. and Canadian unions historically marginalized immigrant workers, by the early 1990s, key unions achieved success organizing immigrant workers and adopted more progressive immigration policies. North America’s major labor federations also made significant changes. The Canadian Labour Congress created a National Anti-Racism Task Force in 1994 to address, among other issues, the links between racism and Canadian immigration policies. In 2000, the AFL-CIO reversed its previous support for legislation that contributed to the discrimination and intimidation of immigrants. Then in 2003, a coalition of major U.S. unions, NGOs and community groups organized the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride to call attention to the rights of immigrants.

This paper argues that shifts in union immigration policies emerge not only out of demographic changes that generate the need to organize immigrant workers, but also reflect larger changes wrought by processes of economic integration. It also suggests that unions’ adoption of less draconian immigration policies provide new political arenas for transnational labor collaboration. A 1997 campaign conducted by the Teamsters, UFW, and Mexican labor activists to defend the rights of migrant farmworkers who had left their community in Mexico to work in the Washington apple industry provides one example. Another example is advocacy in favor of labor rights for undocumented workers by the AFL-CIO and affiliated unions in court cases. We believe these and other examples will show that transnational links and amicus advocacy led official federation policy on immigration reform. These examples show how social change occurs in large, diffuse organizations.

Ruben J. Garcia is Professor of Law at California Western School of Law in San Diego, where he has taught since 2003. He has held visiting appointments at the University of California, Davis School of Law and at the University of California, San Diego. Professor Garcia received an A.B. from Stanford University, a J.D. from UCLA School of Law, and an LL.M. from the University of Wisconsin Law School.  His research and teaching focus on the ways that race, gender, immigration and globalization impact the law of work. Professor Garcia’s scholarly work has appeared in a number of publications, including the University of Chicago Legal Forum, Hastings Law Journal, Florida State Law Review, Florida Law Review, the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Labor and Employment Law, the First Amendment Law Review, and the Journal of Gender, Race and Justice. He is currently finishing a book for New York University Press, titled Marginal Workers: How Legal Fault Lines Divide Workers and Leave Them Without Protection (2011).

John Skrentny on immigration politics at “The Hill”

John Skrentny writes on winning strategies for immigration reform in a political climate of distrust.

Immigration reform: From distrust to direction


What accounts for this distrust? The answer is obvious: the federal government’s long-term record is one of highly visible failure.

The lowlight was the bipartisan Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. That law promised to seal the Mexican border, clamp down on employers who hire illegal immigrants, and legalize nearly three million then in the country. For many, this grand bargain became a tragic broken promise, making a mockery of rule of law and cheapening American citizenship. The number of illegal immigrants soared. New industries, notably meatpacking, restaurants and landscaping, joined agriculture in becoming heavily reliant on illegal immigrant labor. Yet the public image of “immigration” is often not of hard-working people tolerating bleak working conditions and low pay, but of news reports showing grainy footage of Mexicans streaming across the border.

Even Obama’s record-setting deportations and unprecedented crackdown on employers have done little to convince restriction-minded voters and lawmakers that the border is or even can be controlled. In this climate, even the targeted legalization bill known as the DREAM Act, which would benefit law-abiding young people who grew up in America and attended college or served in the military, has repeatedly failed.

On Tuesday, Obama hinted—but did not emphasize – something new: change coming from conservative business leaders (he even quoted Rupert Murdoch) and conservative Christian groups as forces for immigration reform.

Why rely on conservative groups? Reformers can learn from the stunning legalization bill passed in March in the deeply red state of Utah. Business and Christian groups in that state re-branded immigration reform as conservative and persuaded the Republican legislature to pass a bill to turn Utah’s illegal aliens into temporary, legal guest workers.

It happened after leaders in the Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce witnessed convention business fleeing the restrictionist climate in Arizona for Utah. They saw an immigrant-friendly Utah as good for business. The conservative Mormon church joined the cause because its leaders believed that religious and moral teachings dictated welcoming strangers from foreign lands. Their “Utah Compact” pledged support for business- and family-friendly immigration policies guided by a “spirit of inclusion.”

Utah’s story shows reform is possible when change is led not by government or established immigration reform leaders, but by conservative religious groups with moral clout and business leaders with political and economic power.

The other lesson of the Utah story may be harder for reformers to accept: give up on citizenship as a goal. Unlike his July, 2010 speech, when Obama called for illegal immigrants to “earn their citizenship,” on Tuesday he only said they must “get in line for legalization.” This would be smart political strategy for results-oriented reformers.

The legislators in Utah could not offer U.S. citizenship, but national reformers can learn from Utah’s strategy of providing work visas. For years, reformers sought citizenship for the great majority of millions of illegal immigrants, failing under both Republican and Democratic presidents and Congresses. The DREAM Act’s narrowly-targeted pathway to citizenship has similarly failed. Since 1986, many voters strongly resist the full rights of American membership for people they perceive as lawbreakers. Reformers in Washington can follow Utah by providing people without papers with a work- or family-related visa.

Arguably, this is simply kicking the can down the road if these visas are made temporary. But as Obama said on Tuesday, most immigrants come to the U.S. to find work. This lesser prize protects workers from exploitation and American wages. Most importantly, it may break the congressional logjam, making other badly needed immigration reform – such as allowing more foreign talent, streamlining the visa process, reforming temporary visas for tech and agricultural workers—finally possible.

John D. Skrentny is Director of the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies and professor of sociology at the University of California, San Diego and a contributor to Reaching for a New Deal: Ambitious Governance, Economic Meltdown, and Polarized Politics in Obama’s First Two Years.

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Immigration at the National and Local Level in Japan

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May 6-7, 2011, Weaver Conference Center, UC San Diego

With support from CCIS and participation from co-director David FitzGerald, UC San Diego School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IR/PS) hosts a two-day conference featuring leading academics from Japan, Brazil, Australia, and the United States who will examine the impact of future economic growth and community relations in Japan and the United States.

Admission is free, but registration is required.  Click here to register.

For more information, visit the website or contact Lane Ogawa.

Friday, May 6, 2011


9:00 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.

Ulrike Schaede, UC San Diego and Kazuhisa Nishihara, Nagoya University


9:15 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

Ulrike Schaede, UC San Diego and Lindsey Sasaki, New York University

Session 1 – What is Immigration and its Implication for Japan, the United States, and Europe?

10:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

– Yuri Okina, Japan Research Institute
“Japan’s challenge with economic growth and demographic situation”
– Teruyuki Komatsu, Nagoya Gakuin University
“Brief history of Japanese immigration abroad since Meiji period”
– Apichai Shipper, University of Southern California
“Japan’s immigration politics in comparative perspective”
– Tadamasa Murai, Nagoya City University
“Japan’s distinct immigration policy in comparison with the U.S.A. and EU”

David Fitzgerald, UC San Diego and Nancy Gilson, UC San Diego

Session 2 – The Economic and Demographic Effects of Immigration in Japan and the United States

1:15 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

– Kyoji Fukao, Hitosubashi University
“The Economic Impact of Migration: Productivity Analysis for Japan and the US at the National and the Local Level”
– Junichi Goto, Keio University
“Aging, Migration, and Female Workers in Japan: The Impact on Future Economic Growth”

Gordon Hanson, UC San Diego

Session 3 – The Education and Adaptation of Migrant Children in Japan and the United States

2:45 p.m. – 4:45 p.m.

– June Gordon, UC Santa Cruz
“Transnational Migration: Identity and Schooling of Nikkei Youth.”
– Kaori Okano, La Trobe University
“Educating migrant children: multicultural policies and practices”
– Marcelo Suarez-Orosco, New York University
“LISA study of the Harvard Immigration Project”

Christena Turner, UC San Diego and Eiko Ushida, UC San Diego

Saturday, May 7, 2011
Session 1 – The Discourse of Immigration Policy, Citizenship, Multiculturalism, and Nationalism at the National and Local Level

9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

– Masato Ninomiya, University of São Paulo
“Judicial Cooperation between Brazil and Japan concerning the presence of Brazilian workers in Japan”
– Hideki Tarumoto, Hokkaido University
“Transformation of citizenship institutions in the global migration era”
– Joseph Hankins, UC San Diego
“Multiculturalism in Japan”

Megumi Naoi, UC San Diego

Session 2 – The Development of Community Building and Social Movements in Japan

11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

– Kazuhisa Nishihara, Nagoya University
“Immigrants from Asia to Contemporary Japan: Focus on the case of Chinese agricultural trainees”
– Hwaji Shin, University of San Francisco
“Zainichi Koreans’ social movements and citizenship in Japan”

Lindsey Sasaki, New York University

Session 3 – The Integration of Immigrant Workers in Japan

12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

– Keiko Yamanaka, UC Berkeley
“The 2008-09 Economic Crisis, Massive Unemployment of Immigrant Workers, and Efforts to Assist Them in Central Japan”
– Hiroshi Yamaguchi, Nagoya University
“South Americans in Japanese Industrial Cities: Social Environment and the Model of Integration”

Ulrike Schaede, UC San Diego

John Skrentny and Gary Lee to present at “The Nation and Citizen in Transformation” conference at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, May 6-7.

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John Skrentny and Gary Lee will present their paper, “Nationhood and Multiculturalism in Industrialized East Asia,” at a conference on “The Nation and Citizen in Transformation: Making and Unmaking of Transnationalism in East Asia.”  The conference will take place on May 6-7 at The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

For details, click here.