David FitzGerald

Professor of Sociology, UCSD

David FitzGerald’s research program aims to understand the laws and policies regulating international migration as a total system of interactions among actors in countries of origin and destination. He explains how and why legal norms are diffused, the social origins of policy variation across time and place, and how the application of policy is experienced by actors in daily life. FitzGerald co-directs the San Diego hub of the Scholars Strategy Network and was awarded the American Sociological Association’s (ASA) International Migration Section “Award for Public Sociology” in 2013. His co-authored book, Culling the Masses: The Democratic Origins of Racist Immigration Policy in the Americas (Harvard 2014), won “best book” awards from the ASA International Migration Section, ASA Political Sociology Section, and American Political Science Association (APSA) Migration and Citizenship Section in 2015.

Research Expertise

International migration, nationalism, transnationalism, comparative immigration and nationality law

Geographical Regions of Specialization

Mexico, USA, Canada, Cuba

Current Research Projects

The Asylum Paradox: Remote Control of Forced Migration to the Global North

Every day on the high seas, at land borders, and in airports, people who claim that they are fleeing persecution in their home countries ask for refuge. Most governments subscribe to the principle that people seeking asylum should not be forced back to countries where they will be persecuted. Many states grant asylum even at considerable financial and domestic political cost. Yet paradoxically, just as human rights norms became universalized in a way that legitimates bounded impingements on state sovereignty, liberal-democratic countries began concentrated efforts to keep many forced migrants at a distance, where they cannot access the full range of asylum protections of international and domestic law. All manner of “remote control” policy tools, from creating legal loopholes defining an airport arrivals terminal as outside the national territory to deploying navies hundreds of miles offshore, are used to keep asylum seekers from accessing the territory of the Global North where they can press their claims. This study aims to systematically describe policies of remote control of asylum seekers and the effects of those policies in Australia, Canada, the EU, United States, and Mexico.

California Immigration Research Initiative

If California were its own country, it would have the world’s fourth largest immigrant population. It has the most immigrants in the United States (more than 10 million) and the highest share in its population (27%). The way these newcomers are integrated into the state will shape California’s schools, workforce, businesses, public health, politics, and culture. Understanding the incorporation of immigrants and their descendants and how public agencies and community-based organizations affect integration is essential for the state’s future well-being. The California Immigration Research Initiative is showing the complex processes of immigrant integration and providing analytical frameworks and applied solutions for policymakers and non-governmental organizations working on immigration-related issues. The initiative harnesses the strength of five UC interdisciplinary immigration studies centers. The Center for Comparative Immigration Studies (CCIS) at UCSD hosts the initiative in coordination with the UCLA Program on International Migration, Center for Research on Immigration Population and Public Policy at UCI, Center for Latino Policy Research at UCB, and Immigration Research Group at UCR.

Media Interview Topics

FitzGerald frequently provides comment on U.S. immigration and border enforcement policy and Mexican migration to media such as the Economist, New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, Guardian (UK), and CBS’s 60 Minutes.

Culling the Masses bookCulling the Masses: The Democratic Origins of Racist Immigration Policy in the Americas (Harvard University Press 2014)

  • APSA Migration and Citizenship Section Best Book Award, 2015
  • ASA Political Sociology Section Best Book Award, 2015
  • ASA International Migration Section Best Book Award, 2015
  • Honorable Mention, Theodore Saloutos Book Prize, Immigration and Ethnic History Society, 2015

A Nation of Emigrants bookA Nation of Emigrants: How Mexico Manages Its Migration (University of California Press 2014)

Selected Publications

“150 Years of Transborder Politics: Mexico and Mexicans Abroad,” in A Century of Transnationalism: Immigrants and Their Homeland Connections, edited by Nancy L. Green and Roger Waldinger. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2016.

“The role of visual markers in police victimization among structurally vulnerable persons in Tijuana, Mexico.” (with Miguel Pinedo, Jose Luis Burgos, Adriana Vargas Ojeda, and Victoria D. Ojeda), International Journal of Drug Policy 26 (2015): 501-508. 2015. 

Eligir a la población: leyes de inmigración y racismo en el continente americano,” (with David Cook-Martín) in Inmigración y Racismo: Contribuciones a la historia de los extranjeros en México, edited by Pablo Yankelevich. Colegio de México, 2015.

“Culling the Masses: A Rejoinder” (with David Cook-Martín) Ethnic and Racial Studies 38(8). 2015.

“The Sociology of International Migration,” in Migration Theory: Talking Across Disciplines, edited by Caroline B. Brettell and James F. Hollifield. Routledge, 2014.

Emigration’s Impacts on Mexico: A Sociology of Dissimilation in How Immigrants Impact their Homelands, edited by Susan Eva Eckstein and Adil Najam. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013.

Migration: Policies and Politics (with Rafael Alarcón) in Mexico and the United States: The Politics of Partnership, edited by Peter H. Smith and Andrew Selee. Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2013.

A Comparativist Manifesto for International Migration Studies, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 2012.

Citizenship à la Carte: Emigration and the Strengthening of the Sovereign State in Politics from Afar: Transnational Diasporas and Networks, edited by Peter Mandaville and Terrence Lyons, Columbia University Press, 2012.

Mexican Migration and the Law, in Beyond the Border: The History of Mexico-US Migration, edited by Mark Overmyer-Velázquez, pp. 179-203. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2011.

Liberalism and the Limits of Inclusion: Racialized Preferences in Immigration Laws of the Americas, 1850-2000. (with David Cook-Martín), Journal of Interdisciplinary History. 16(1): 7-25. 2010.

Colonies of the Little Motherland: Membership, Space, and Time in Mexican Migrant Hometown Associations, Comparative Studies in Society and History 50(1). 2008.

Mexican Assimilation: A Temporal and Spatial Reorientation (with Tomás Jiménez), W.E.B. Du Bois Review 4(2): 337-354. 2007.

Inside the Sending State: The Politics of Mexican Emigration Control, International Migration Review 40(2): 259-93. 2006.

Towards a Theoretical Ethnography of Migration, Qualitative Sociology 29(1): 1-24. 2006.

Rethinking Emigrant Citizenship, New York University Law Review 81(1): 90-116. 2006.

Nationality and Migration in Modern Mexico, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 31(1): 171-91. 2005.

Transnationalism in Question (with Roger Waldinger), American Journal of Sociology 109(5):1177-95. 2004.

Beyond ‘Transnationalism’: Mexican Hometown Politics at an American Labor Union, Ethnic and Racial Studies 27(2): 228-47. 2004.

Extra-Territorial-Citizenship book coverNegotiating Extra-Territorial Citizenship: Mexican Migration and the Transnational Politics of Community. Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, 2000.