The Leir Institute’s research is rooted in our mission: to help policymakers and practitioners develop more equitable and sustainable responses to migration and its root causes by employing a human security approach. True to this approach, our programs combine practice, education, and research that employs multi-disciplinary frames of analysis, drawing on principles of governance, human rights, gender, conflict resolution, livelihoods, nutrition and public health, and humanitarian assistance.  

Our current programs include: 

The Corruption, Justice and Legitimacy Project (CJL)  is a research-to-practice initiative committed to improving the effectiveness of anti-corruption programming in contexts of endemic corruption.  

Digital Portfolios of the Poor (DPP) is a multi-year, multi-country project aimed at creating better digital financial products for the poor by understanding how emerging technologies are viewed, used, understood, and perceived in low-income settings, particularly among women. The project is a joint initiative with Decodis, a social research company founded and led by Leir Senior Fellow Dr. Daryl Collins. 

Disrupted Mobilities is a multimedia project inspired by the Leir-sponsored 2019 documentary, Waylaid in Tijuana, that explores the intersecting effects of blocked asylum, deportation, and restricted cross-border movement in communities along the US-Mexico border. 

The Journeys Project (JP) examines migrant stories to better understand the costs and strategies involved in their journeys as well as the economic approaches they use when putting down roots in new surroundings. 

The Program on Human Security and Inner Development (PHUSID) is a skills-building initiative with Aarhus University in Denmark and the government of Costa Rica to better prepare students to work effectively and practice self-care in violent or fragile contexts. 

The Refugees in Towns project (RIT)  promotes understanding of the migrant/refugee integration experience by drawing on the knowledge and perspectives of refugees themselves as well as local hosts.  

Learn more about Leir’s past programs here.  

Latest Updates

  • Katrina Burgess is thinking about how to change your mind. As Associate Professor of Political Economy and Director of the Henry J. Leir Institute of Migration and Human Security, Burgess promotes human security and dignity by complicating the stories told about migration.

  • By Patrick Dowd, Editor-Translator A NOTE FROM DR. KAREN JACOBSEN, RIT PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR This is not our usual RIT report in that it was not written by a refugee researcher, but rather is based on a series of interviews conducted by Patrick Dowd, as described below. These Tibetan refugees living in northern India do not speak English, and the interviews, conducted in Tibetan, were a way to capture their experience for our English readers. The report is also different from our other RIT reports in that we have given somewhat more space to the refugee’s life in Tibet, and his journey and experience prior to arriving in Sarnath. A NOTE ON EDITOR-TRANSLATOR POSITIONALITY AND METHODOLOGY My name is Patrick Dowd, and I’m a doctoral candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, where my research focuses on the contemporary Buddhist life of the Tibetan language. Prior to my doctoral training in linguistic and socio-cultural anthropology, I worked with Tibetan-speaking communities in the Himalaya’s for several years, beginning as a Fulbright research scholar based in Dharamsala, India. I wrote this report based on a February 23, 2022 Zoom interview with a Tibetan refugee living in Sarnath, India (pseudonym Thubten Dawa), where he works for the Sarnath International Nyingma Institute (SINI). Later, in summer 2022, I traveled to India to work at SINI, where I developed a closer relationship with him. The meals and many cups of tea we shared throughout the summer enabled me to clarify details of his story and revise this report. Except for a handful of English and Hindi loanwords, all our communication occurred in Tibetan. Based on consultation with the refugee and SINI’s leadership we decided that I would write the report in the first-person with direct translations of his words. Thubten Dawa understood that parts of his story would need to be reordered and edited for clarity of understanding in English, but the experiences described, and the words used to describe them, are entirely his own. While I am highly proficient in Tibetan, I clarified any points of confusion in the story through spoken and written communication with Thubten Dawa. Initially, this occurred through voice and written WhatsApp messages, and later through in-person follow-up interviews over the course of my summer at SINI. The information presented in this report has been rigorously reviewed multiple times to ensure the greatest fidelity to his experiences. At numerous points in the writing process, I sat beside him, laptop before us, and translated back to him in Tibetan what I had written in English. If there were any discrepancies or nuances in meaning lost in the translation, we worked together to correctly represent his experiences. The quotations in Tibetan show the actual words spoken by Thubten Dawa, serving as a reminder of the translated nature of the report. The interview on February 23, 2022, and all subsequent conversations with Thubten Dawa occurred with free, prior, and informed consent. He understood the aims of this report, and my purpose in writing it, before he shared his story. On numerous occasions, he expressed his aspiration that by reading this story, “others will understand the importance of pure motivation and necessity to prioritize the welfare of others rather than one’s self.” Patrick Dowd authored both the background and the introduction in addition to editing and translating this report. READ THE REPORT

  • Coyotes, Tandas, and a Quest for Closure: Conversations with Recent Immigrants from Puebla, Mexico By Anargiros Z. Frangos, Jr. under the supervision of Kim Wilson For the vast majority of Mexicans wishing to immigrate to the United States, being sponsored by a qualifying relative is not possible. Even for those who are eligible, waitlists to receive a visa can stretch for years if not decades. Facing this impediment, often in addition to other obstacles to legal immigration, many Mexican immigrants decide to immigrate instead by using the services of a smuggler, or coyote. Once a member of a family is established in the United States, they can then attempt to reunite with members of their family, helping them immigrate in the same way. This essay reflects on the experience of fifteen immigrants who left Puebla, Mexico and resettled in New Rochelle, New York. The author, Anargiros, details this group’s perilous journey as well as the methods participants used to re-establish their lives in the United States. For Anargiros, this research is deeply personal, as his own grandfather came to the United States as a young man in search of opportunity, chasing the American Dream. Drawing parallels between journeys, Anargiros seeks to pose the questions he could not ask his grandfather: Who are migrants? What do they want from life? What does it mean to be an immigrant in the U.S.? He finds that: Participants are motivated to migrate because of wage differentials, endemic corruption, and violence in Mexico.Crossing the border with a coyote is highly organized and relatively low cost.Once settled, participants are working, paying taxes, and saving money with Rotating Savings and Credit Associations (tandas in Mexican communities) in the hope of obtaining amnesty. This essay was completed in fulfillment of the author’s capstone project, a master’s thesis requirement at The Fletcher School at Tufts University. READ THE REPORT

  • This new edition of profiles builds upon Volume II, Financial Biographies of People Coping with New Surroundings, adding interviews from Colombia and the United States. By Kim Wilson et. al. The volume takes up where Volume I, Financial Biographies of Long-Distance Journeyers, left off. In Volume I, we traced refugees’ and migrants’ journeys on the move, viewing their passages through an economic lens. In Volume II, we examine the lives of migrants and refugees who are managing new environments, be they are displaced for long periods, in limbo waiting for the chance to move onward, or settling into their final destinations.  In this updated edition, we draw on the primary research undertaken in 2019 and 2020 and bring new insights from research in 2021 and 2022. Our profiles include material from Tijuana, Mexico; Tunis, Tunisia; Quito, Ecuador; Jijiga, Ethiopia; Kampala and Bidi Bidi Camp, Uganda; as well as Nairobi, Kenya; Amman, Jordan; New Rochelle, United States; and Medellín, Colombia. In Ethiopia, respondents had been near Jijiga for between 10 and 20 years. Most respondents had been coping in their new surroundings for between two and four years. These biographies explore stories of adaptation, adjustment, and in some cases, integration. READ THE FINANCIAL BIOGRAPHIES

  • Dr. Katrina Burgess and Dr. Kim Howe seek a part-time project manager and a part-time research assistant in support of the program. Hopes, Fears, and Illusions seeks to gain a more systematic and rigorous understanding of what informs the hopes and fears of migrants regarding their prospects for entering the United States as they journey north through Central America and Mexico. Specifically, we will address two major gaps in our knowledge: what information migrants get from where, and how migrants interpret and then act on this information. Through ethnographic research at migrant shelters in Colombia, Costa Rica, and Mexico, we will gather data directly from migrants on the move while testing and refining methodologies for conducting research with vulnerable populations. Our results will be a key first step toward developing a more empirically robust and humane foundation for U.S. asylum and border policies, which are currently failing at their stated objectives while causing unnecessary human suffering. Now Hiring: Project Manager and Research Assistant Principal investigators Dr. Katrina Burgess and Dr. Kim Howe seek a part-time Project Manager and a part-time Research Assistant. Interested applicants may apply to both roles but must submit separate applications. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis until January 20; early applications are highly encouraged. Project ManagerTerm: Jan. 30-Dec. 31, 2023Comp: $20/hour, 7-8 hours/week The PM is expected to contribute to all aspects of the research project from start-up to completion. They will lead a team of 7-9 research assistants and support methodological development of research protocols, site selection, and data analysis. They should be fluent or highly proficient in Spanish, have strong analytic and organizational skills, be comfortable working independently and as a part of a team, and creatively problem-solve. The PM should have a key interest in research management, and the research topics of Latin America, migration/forced migration, social behavior, and trauma-informed research. Research AssistantTerm: Jan. 30-May 30, 2023Comp: $20/hour, 5-7 hours/week The RA will conduct a literature review on topics related to the project and will lead the project’s IRB application process. The RA should have successful experience with research, including conducting scientific literature reviews, designing research protocols, and organizing research logistics. The RA should have strong analytic, writing, and organizational skills, be comfortable working independently and as a part of a team, and creatively problem-solve. The RA should also have a keen interest and some background in the research topics of Latin America, migration/forced migration, social behavior, and/or trauma-informed research. Preference will be given to candidates who are proficient in Spanish. Learn More and Apply