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MEDIA CONTACT: Christine Dardet

FAU Professor’s Research Brings to Light the Human Side of the Highly Controversial Immigration Debate


BOCA RATON, FL (November 28, 2011) – Timothy Steigenga, Ph.D., political science professor and chair of social sciences and humanities in the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College at Florida Atlantic University, recently completed a collaborative study focused on Brazilian, Guatemalan and Mexican immigration in Florida and Georgia. Funded by the Ford Foundation and a Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars fellowship, the two-part study focuses on challenges immigrant groups face, as well as Latino race relations.

“The findings from these research projects have helped us make progress toward two important goals,” said Steigenga, who has dedicated his research to studying Latin America and its relationship to the U.S. “The first goal is to educate local government and non-governmental agencies about the needs, resources and aspirations of immigrant communities. The second goal is to bring to light one of the most often overlooked participants in the highly controversial national debate on immigration: the immigrants themselves.”

“Latino Immigrants in Florida:  Lived Religion, Space and Power,” the first part of the Ford Foundation study, analyzed the challenges that immigrant groups face, the resources they bring and the collective strategies they deploy as they settle in places that have only recently been affected by large-scale immigration. Findings from this study were published in A Place to Be: Brazilian, Guatemalan, and Mexican Immigrants in Florida’s New Destinations (Rutgers, 2009), a book that Steigenga co-authored with Phillip J. Williams, director for the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Florida, and Manuel A. Vásquez, associate professor of religion at UF.

The second part of the study, “Latin American Immigrants in the New South:  Religion and the Politics of Encounter,” focused on inter-ethnic and racial relations in the new South, a region that has experienced a dramatic growth in Latino population in the last decade.  Findings from this study are included in Living “Illegal:” The Human Face of Unauthorized Immigration (The New Press, 2011), a book that Steigenga co-authored with Marie F. Marquardt, scholar-in-residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, along with Williams and Vásquez.  Living “Illegal” focuses on the individual lives of unauthorized immigrants, paying close attention to difficult circumstances they face while travelling to and living in the U.S., including economic hardships, social issues and deportation.

“Unauthorized immigration in the U.S. is a serious issue that raises valid concerns and that has real costs for our society,” said Steigenga.  “However, current policies are based on broad and frequently conflicting claims that fail to solve complex problems.  Public policy debate should be informed by moral considerations and the realities on the ground, as well as a robust knowledge of the historical and contemporary forces that led to unauthorized immigration in the first place."

Steigenga’s most recent fellowship at the Woodrow Wilson Center was devoted to producing a new book, Against the Tide: The Story of El Sol, Jupiter’s Neighborhood Resource Center, co-authored with Sandra Lazo de la Vega, an FAU Honors College alumnus and current graduate student at Florida International University. The book (University of Wisconsin Press, forthcoming in 2012), focuses on the local dimensions of the immigration debate in Jupiter, and the positive actions taken by the town to address immigration-related issues through supporting the foundation of a center for immigrant integration.

For more information on these studies and publications, contact Timothy Steigenga at 561-799-8610 or



The Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, located on FAU's John D. MacArthur Campus, is a four-year residential liberal arts and science college of high achieving undergraduates.

Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. In commemoration of its origin, FAU is celebrating its 50th anniversary throughout 2011. Today, the University serves more than 29,000 undergraduate and graduate students on seven campuses and sites. FAU’s world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. For more information, visit

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