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

  • The Refugees in Towns Project at the Henry J. Leir Institute for Migration & Human Security presented its 3rd annual convening on April 14, 2023. The Race and Migration Symposium draws on RiT’s ongoing research with the Hello Neighbor Network focused on assessing how refugees come to understand and experience race in the U.S. View the program here and watch the panel recordings below. Opening Remarks & Research Partners Spotlight: Hello Neighbor Network & Dwell Mobile Research, Race, & Resettlement: A Presentation of Research Findings & Open Immigrant Dialogue Research Spotlight: Dr. Helen B. Marrow on Racial Socialization of New Immigrants in the U.S. Policy, Practice, and Prejudice: A Discussion of Racialized Immigration Policies & Paving a Path Forward

  • By Gilberto Calderin A U.S. embargo against Cuba has been in place for nearly sixty years, restricting the flow of goods to the island. The U.S. government prohibits American companies from doing business with Cuba, and U.S. laws penalize foreign companies. The restrictions are intended to squeeze Cuba financially and generate discontent to force the ruling Communist Party to reform or step down. After half a century, the embargo has failed to achieve these goals.  A decade ago, President Obama tried to change course. He eased sanctions, opened direct flights, and relaxed restrictions on American business in Cuba. This policy was popular with Americans, but President Trump reversed course immediately after taking office. He barred Americans from sending remittances to their relatives in Cuba, cut off travel between the two countries, and placed Cuba on the U.S. list of state sponsors of international terrorism. Trump’s actions ended any opportunity to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba.  On the campaign trail, Joe Biden promised to move away from Trump’s hardline stance on Cuba. So far, he has delivered, eliminating the limit on family remittances, expanding the number of flights to Cuba, and increasing staff at the Havana embassy to process visas. Although this move has been unpopular with conservative Cuban-Americans, President Biden should not allow a hardline minority in South Florida to dictate America’s foreign policy.  Following the July 11, 2021 mass protests, the largest in thirty years, renewed debate on lifting the embargo. The demonstrations were triggered mainly by food and medicine shortages. Cuban American activists and Republicans urged President Biden to increase pressure on Cuba. In contrast, Democrats were divided on the issue.  Ending the embargo is the best way to help the Cuban people. Opponents claim that current restrictions hit the regime, but the embargo has crippled the Cuban economy and hurt the people it claims to help. The United Nations estimates the blockade has cost the Cuban economy $130 billion over six decades. Because of this policy, Cuba’s quality of life is poor. Imagine waiting in line for hours at the supermarket to find most shelves bare. Unable to feed your family and constantly rely on your neighbors for food scraps to get by. For Cubans, daily life means living with shortages of food and other essential goods. Hardliners argue that harsh economic sanctions are necessary to undermine the communist regime. They point to the unprecedented levels of protest as evidence. The Cuban people are angry and tired of their misery. However, after sixty years of sanctions, there is no sign that the regime is in danger. The communist government uses the embargo to shift blame for the country’s economic hardships.   Ending the embargo and improving closer ties between the U.S. and Cuba will help promote American values, such as free enterprise, freedom of speech, and other fundamental democratic ideals. More contact with Americans will expose Cubans to the freedom and opportunities they have lacked for decades. They will yearn for change and pressure their government to shift away from Soviet-style economic policies and political repression.  Fully ending the embargo will require Congress’s approval. But there is much more the Biden administration can do on its own. First, the U.S. should remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Second, the U.S. should allow Americans to travel freely to Cuba. Let Americans spend their cash on small, privately owned businesses in Cuba to empower them financially. Third, the U.S. should increase financial support for independent Cuban entrepreneurs, for example, by helping them access the internet, financing, and training. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union thirty years ago, Cuba is no longer a threat to the United States. The embargo is a Cold War relic and must be ended. The U.S. can ease restrictions while holding the Cuban government accountable for its egregious human rights record. Continuing to inflict pain on the Cuban people has not and will not work. It is time to chart a new course. Removing the embargo will open up Cuba’s economy and prove the superiority of a market system by stimulating the economic growth needed to lift Cubans out of poverty.

  • By Chidi Anselm Odinkalu Affiliated faculty Chidi Anselm Odinkalu recently published “Article III of the OAU Refugee Convention in Context: the Emergence of Subversion in the African Inter-State System” in Refugee Survey Quarterly. On the face of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, the refugee problem in Africa is explicitly a multi-dimensional humanitarian, political, and security challenge. Linking the problem of refugees in Africa to the challenge of coexistence among then newly independent African States, Article III of the OAU Convention prohibits subversion by refugees. This study examines the evolution of this prohibition in the context of the history of post-colonial transition and authoritarianism which birthed it, and whose consequences are far from extinguished; suggesting that this context provides greater clarity to the scope and function of the prohibition as an obligation founded in a duty of friendly relations owed by African states to one another. Despite this, the language of the prohibition in the OAU Convention nevertheless lends it to sovereign self-help in a global context of rising authoritarian rule. Read the Article

  • By Dyan Mazurana, Anastasia Marshak, and Kinsey Spears Affiliated faculty Dr. Dyan Mazurana, who directs the Feinstein International Center’s Research Program on Women, Children and Armed Conflict, co-authored with Dr. Anastasia Marshak and Fletcher PhD candidate Kinsey Spears “Sex, age (and more) still matter: Data collection, analysis, and use in humanitarian practice”, published in collaboration with UN Women and CARE. The report assesses the impact of the landmark report on sex-, age-, and disability disaggregated data (SADD) published a decade ago and offers new recommendations to realize the collection and use of such data. “The humanitarian community has come a long way since the first Sex and Age Matter report was published in 2011. In the new report, we show how that progress has been uneven. The collection and analysis of sex-, age, and disability disaggregated data do not consistently inform programming and require further commitment and investment.” Read the Report