Institute for Immigration Research keeps context in immigration conversation

by Anne Reynolds

From its opening days, the current presidential administration has turned its attention to limiting immigration into the United States, beginning with ordering a temporary ban on travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Mason’s Institute for Immigration Research (IIR) has responded by offering information, context, and facts to counter misperceptions about immigrants’ contributions to the economy of the United States and about the American Muslim population in particular. This important role is even more critical in the current climate of immigrant and Muslim debate.

“The mission of the IIR is to contribute to conversations around immigration and immigrants in the United States by producing and sharing unbiased and objective research,” said Shannon Davis, acting director of IIR and Mason’s Center for Social Science Research. “Our goal is to educate, both through our own research endeavors but also by bringing together members of many communities in conversations built on an evidence-based foundation.”

In an article in the February 1, 2017 Washington Post, Justin Lowry, a postdoctoral fellow at IIR, offered updated figures to support a 2014 IIR report that quantified the role of immigrants in the U.S. pharmaceutical industry, particularly in the innovation areas of research and development. Lowry pointed out that 2015 data indicated that immigrants made up 23 percent of the workforce in the pharmaceutical industry, a rise from the 17 percent reported by the 2011 figures on which the earlier report was based.

And last week IIR co-hosted, with the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies and Mason’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, a panel discussion, Xenophobia and Islamophobia in the Modern Era, which welcomed an overflow audience of students, faculty, staff, and community members. With Islamophobia and xenophobia on the rise in 2014-15, explained Monica Gomez Isaac, IIR executive director, the aim of the discussion was to provide facts to counter the fear and misconceptions about both groups.

“The need for accurate and actionable objective data is more important than ever, as our communities navigate through uncertainty around immigration,” she continued. “Providing dependable, unbiased data helps ensure the public can make informed decisions about how immigrants remain a central component to the United States' history and identity. But more importantly, making this factual evidence publicly available is a vital step towards addressing how immigrants support and sustain our communities--economically, socially, and culturally.”