In the United States, 11 million undocumented immigrants face threats such as family separation, deportation, insufficient legal representation, widespread racial profiling, vulnerability for exploitation, inhumane containment, and overt and subtle discrimination. These persistent threats are one of the most pressing problems of our time and one that demands a multisectoral and interdisciplinary response. In the summer of 2018, a number of APA divisions worked collaboratively within and beyond the profession to document and address state policies and practices harmful to immigrant children and families.i This work continues under the leadership of Mary Beth Quaranta Morrissey, former president of Div. 24. It is supported by two years of funding from the Committee on Division/APA Relations (CODAPAR).ii To carry out this work, members of Div. 5 – Section 3 – Society for Qualitative Inquiry in Psychology (SQIP) have played an active role in addressing the methods and ethics of key project activities and engaging in scholar activism in the area of immigration advocacy.
The CODAPAR project supports the development and advancement of strategies and practices fostering psychologists’ work in multiple capacities and in collaboration with on-the-ground community leaders who are addressing immigrants’ needs. In year one, co-sponsoring divisions 24, 32, 9, 48, 27, 45, 39, 52, 56, 37 and section 3 of Div. 5 established a volunteer scholar/practitioner network trained in culturally, linguistically sensitive and ethically informed research, which engaged in the following activities: documented detention facility policies/practices and immigrant, refugee, and asylum-seeker lived experience; organized community ethics panels to guide the project; and developed evidence-informed recommendations. Guidance through webinars was provided for clinicians, educators, lawyers and those in other professions (Auerbach & Salton, 2019; Carll & Garcia Rivera, 2019; Minero, Kwong, & Cadenas, 2019; Trenchard, 2019; Wertz, 2019). CODAPAR products also include informative brochures, such as Div. 39 (Sections II & V), “Child First,” and the Psychotherapy Action Network’s “What to Expect When You are Reunited with Your Child,” an accessible pamphlet in Spanish and English that outlines healing strategies families can use in response to their child’s trauma from family separation (Psychotherapy Action Network et al., 2018). In year two, the co-sponsoring divisions will support a series of nationwide critical dialogues (nested within regions) that will inform the development of a set of “bottom-up” or grassroots strategies for collaboration among psychologists and community leaders to amplify the advocacy work to protect immigrants. Strategies will be culturally responsive and sensitive to geographical localized contexts and will be made publicly available as a report.
Along with their CODAPAR peers, SQIP members used qualitative approaches for understanding and documenting local, state, national and international immigrant conditions. Many of us employed oral history methods, particularly what is described by Cave and Sloan (2014) as oral history in crisis environments, which the authors note possesses a “humanizing function…to nurture empathy” and inspire action. An example of an oral history exploring the role of scholar-activists involved in bearing witness and extending the work of activist scholars in psychology, such as W.E.B. DuBois, Marie Jahoda, Kenneth Clark, and Ignacio Martín-Baró, is featured in Michelle Fine’s oral history, which was conducted by Fred Wertz (Fine, 2019). Through interviews, observation, and archiving documents, oral history methods have allowed for a documentation of ongoing humanitarian crises.
Influenced by feminist and critical race theoretical frames and drawing on a history of psychologists’ involvement in social justice, this use of oral history is intended to render visible the structural conditions within the social relations of persons and policies in detention centers, across immigrant communities, and in immigration courts. Along with collaborating divisions of CODAPAR, SQIP members have constructed theoretical frameworks that draw on a contextual and historical angles of vision, situating individual experience as embedded within radicalized, classed, and gendered politics and institutional settings (Weis & Fine, 2004), particularly the expanse of the prison industrial complex as a key actor within the ideology and structure of homeland security. The oral histories speak to the individual lives of parents and their children, of those returned to the conditions they fear and may flee from again, those who work within detention facilities, those who advocate for the detained, and those who resist through forms of protest and subversive efforts.
This work is ethically precarious and requires what critical ethicist Monique Guishard (2016) refers to as relational accountability, where we as psychologists are accountable to the communities with whom we collect the oral histories. As such, the ethical guidance we rely on “acknowledge[s] that intersubjectivity means that participants/co-researchers are members of communities, hold knowledge of their subjective experience, and live and navigate systems that are entrenched in hierarchies of power, noting that we as researchers are also entangled in these hierarchies of power” (Guishard, Halkovic, Galletta, & Li, 2019). The methods, ethics and emerging oral history narratives from this work were featured at Saint Peter’s University in September of this year at a gathering entitled Encuentros in the Borderlands: Activism, Critical Youth Research, and the Obligations of the University. Considerations for the ways in which oral histories produce documentation of structural violence as well as provide forms of psychological support were evident in the presentations of social psychologists, historians, legal rights providers, undergraduate and graduate students from Latinx and black communities, community leaders, and academics. Facilitating the conference were Jennifer Ayala and Michelle Fine, who spoke of the potential of universities and our disciplines to be “bold enough to be accountable to bear witness, provide sanctuary and build with our students an archive of stories never heard that reveal both structural violence and radical possibilities” (Ayala et al., 2019).
Topics discussed during the Encuentros in the Borderlands session include the following: the ways in which oral histories may provide individual and collective healing (Ayala & Mendez, 2019; García Rivera, 2019; Finesurrey, Mena & Villeda, 2019; Juarez Mendoza, 2019); the “connections/bonds between separated or displaced people that help us heal and resist dehumanization,” which Andrea Juarez Mendoza (2019) refers to as “El Hilo”; psycho-social accompaniment (Watkins & Shulman, 2008) and methods of bearing witness through artistic renditions of the experience (Finesurrey, Mena & Villeda, 2019; García Rivera, 2019); collectively refusing stigma associated with the term the “deported” among those returned to El Salvador and in its place using “Retornados” (García Rivera, 2019); the mobilization of community leaders and youth in immigrant neighborhoods to remove barriers to accessing higher education (Ayala & Mendez, 2019); and the cultivation of networks across legal and social professions to advocate for and actively oppose immigration policies harmful to children and families (Perez & Galletta, 2019; García Rivera, Galletta, Li, & Halkovic, 2019).
This work will continue through 2019-2020 with the approval of the second year of this CODAPAR initiative, led by Divisions 48, 17 and 24. Within SQIP and across the divisional memberships of CODAPAR, the exploration of methods, ethics and sharing of oral history narratives will provide knowledge and the basis for informed action with regard to protecting immigrants from harm and supporting humane policies and practices in immigration reform.
iThis summary draws on information from the 2018 and 2019 Interdivisional Grant Program Proposals as well as other project sources. Word length constraints limit inclusion of the breadth of activities represented across the collaborating divisions.
iiThe project includes faculty from universities within and outside of the U.S., including the following: Fordham University, City University of New York Graduate Center, Saint Peter's University, Cleveland State University, Wesleyan University, Sacramento State University, Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology at Yeshiva University, Lesley University, University of Witwatersand (Johannesburg, South Africa), Pacifica Graduate Institute, York University (Toronto, Canada), Connecticut College, Boston College and University of Chicago.
Auerbach, C., & Salton, W. (2019). Training psychology graduate students to prepare psychological affidavits for asylum seekers. Webinar sponsored by Division 9, Society of Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI), along with 24, 32, 9, 48, 27, 45, 39, 52, 56, 37, 5 (Section 3). Retrieved from https://spssi.box.com/s/nalxya069krivbcjy43wsrruzpjp5roh
Ayala, J., & Mendez, M. (2019). The undocu-chronicles: Stories of struggle, strategy, and strength in pursuing access to higher education. Paper presentation at the annual meeting of the Society for Psychological Inquiry in Psychology (SQIP) in Boston.
Ayala, J., Azzam, K., Mendez, M., Cruz, E., Finesurrey, S., Galletta, A., Haas, K., Houston, A., jones, v., Mena, V., Juarez Mendoza, A. N., Mungo, D., Santana, R., Thelusca, H., Villeda, A., Ballet Nepantla. (2019). Encuentros in the borderlands: Activism, critical youth research, and obligations of the university. Session held at Saint Peter’s University, September 26, 2019.
Carll, E., & García Rivera, J. C. (2019). What happens when someone is deported? The psychosocial aftermath experienced by those deported. Webinar sponsored by Divisions 56 (Trauma Psychology), 35 (Society for the Psychology of Women), 52 (International Psychology), and 55 (American Society for the Advancement of Pharmacotherapy).
Cave, M., & Sloan, S. M., (Eds.). (2014). Listening on the edge: Oral histories in the aftermath of crisis. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
CODAPAR Collaborating Divisions. (2018, August). On the shoulders of activist scholars: Building healthy environments for immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers. Proposal submitted to Committee on Division/APA Relations (CODAPAR).
CODAPAR Collaborating Divisions. (2019, August). Collaboration strategies for psychologists and activists to protect immigrants from harm. Proposal submitted to Committee on Division/APA Relations (CODAPAR).
Fine, M. (2019). Oral history of a scholar-activist. Conducted by Fred Wertz and sponsored by Division 24 (Society for Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology). Retrieved from https://zoom.us/recording/play/0EVg7A4_03RP1NsNSsLO1aYTLlGx6t4Ss0U7kevIHZS4tAFRb9jApPItqB_u00Be?startTime=1571680693000
Finesurrey, S., Mena, V., & Villeda, A. (2019). School in the Square: Urban youth navigating high school in New York City. Encuentros in the Borderlands: Activism, Critical Youth Research, and the Obligations of the University. Session held at Saint Peter’s University, September 26, 2019.
García Rivera, J. C. (2019). What happens when someone is deported? (to El Salvador) From workshops to qualitative inquiry. Paper presentation at the annual meeting of the Society for Psychological Inquiry in Psychology (SQIP) in Boston.
García Rivera, J. C., Galletta, A., Li, P., & Halkovic, A. (2019). Oral History in unbearable times: Developing ethical praxis in support of the returned and detained. In Morrissey, M. B. & Halkovic, A. (co-chairs), On the shoulders of activist scholars – Building healthy environments for immigrants and refugees. Symposium presented at the American Psychological Association (APA) 2019 Convention, August 8-11, Chicago.
Guishard, M., Halkovic, A., Galletta, A., & Li, P. (2018). Toward epistemological ethics: Centering communities and social justice in qualitative research. Forum Qualitative Social Research, 19(3). DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/fqs-19.3.3145
Juarez Mendoza, A. N. (2019). El hilo: Dehumanization, detention, and decolonial praxis. Paper presentation at the annual meeting of the Society for Psychological Inquiry in Psychology (SQIP) in Boston.
Minero, L. P., Kwong, A., & Cadenas, G. (2019). Liberation through reclaiming our immigrant stories and putting privilege to action. Webinar sponsored by Division 17 (Society of Counseling Psychology).
Perez, V., & Galletta, A. (2019). Tracing dehumanizing immigration policies, strategic legal responses, and researcher ethics of accompaniment. Paper presentation at the annual meeting of the Society for Psychological Inquiry in Psychology (SQIP) in Boston.
Psychotherapy Action Network, Division 39 (Section II & V), & Child First. (2018). What to expect when you are reunited with your child. Brochure produced through collaborative partnerships supported by CODAPAR.
Trenchard, G. K. (2019). Best practice checklist for interviewing clients who have experienced trauma. Webinar sponsored by Division 9, Society of Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI). Retrieved from https://spssi.box.com/s/jn4m81mwqvwfnz4oziqjfokrm3d5h7t0
Watkins, M., & Shulman, H. (2008). Toward psychologies of liberation. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
Weis, L., & Fine, M. (2004). Working method: Research and social justice. New York, NY: Routledge.
Wertz, F. (2019, February 8). Qualitative methods and ethics: Understanding lived experience. Webinar sponsored by Division 9 (the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues – SPSSI).