Student Project Informs Local Discussions about Immigration Policy

May 22, 2009
by Doug Gavel

Research pioneered by a Harvard Kennedy School student is informing local policymakers about immigration policy options in Boston.

As part of her Policy Analysis Exercise (PAE) this spring, Amy Moran MPP 2009 examined the myriad of ways in which new immigrants utilize local immigrant-led organizations as they settle into their new communities. The results of her research were subsequently disseminated to several state and city officials who are interested in how they can tap the organizational networks to enhance their outreach to newcomers in the city.

“I found that there is a burgeoning network of organizations led by immigrants that have close contact with generally marginalized communities,” Moran said. “This informal network is made up of traditional service providers in addition to organizations focused on arts & culture, sports, politics, religion, and economic development. Many of these organizations are in contact with each other, and some have begun to connect with local politicians as well.

“On the administrative side, city government could leverage these network ties to gain access to marginalized immigrant communities as part of an approach to immigrant integration,” she said.

Toward the end of her project, Moran met with several officials involved with directing immigration policy, including the chairs of the Governor's Advisory Council on Refugees and Immigrants, the leaders of the public-private collaborative New Americans Initiative, and the director of the Mayor's Office for New Bostonians.

“All parties were interested in the particular angle of my research--focusing on organizations apart from traditional community building organizations--and found that the preliminary results resonated with their observations. The Mayor's Office for New Bostonians asked for a list of organizations that participated in my research so they could include them in future outreach plans,” Moran said.

David Luberoff, executive director of the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston, served as Moran’s advisor on the project.

“Amy’s PAE is particularly noteworthy because she drew on the insights of scholars and practitioners to show how public policy might respond to significant changes in the immigrant experience,” Luberoff said. “Her core finding that relatively modest changes in public policy not only can help recent immigrants but also can foster stronger neighborhoods and communities as well not only will be of interest to policymakers and civic leaders interested in immigration but also to those concerned with strengthening urban neighborhoods and communities.”

Moran, whose PAE was conducted with partnership with the Boston Redevelopment Authority, plans to remain involved in community issues as a volunteer, while she moves to the next phase in her career – as a Policy Analyst in the U.S. Government Accountability Office in Boston.

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Photograph of Amy Moran beside scale model of city of Boston

Amy Moran beside a scale model of the city of Boston

"City government could leverage these [community] network ties to gain access to marginalized immigrant communities as part of an approach to immigrant integration,” Moran said.