Asad, Asad L. In Preparation. Deportable: Immigrant Families and the Fear of Deportation. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Book Chapter
Garip, Filiz, and Asad L. Asad. 2015. “Migrant Networks”. Pp. 1-13 in Emerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Wiley. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Migrant networks—webs of social ties between migrants in destination and individuals in origin—are a key determinant of the magnitude and direction of migration flows, as well as migrants’ adaptation outcomes. The increasing emphasis on migrant networks represents a new approach to migration research, which until the late 1980s, had been dominated by economic or political explanations of migration.  This entry summarizes findings on migrant networks from relevant areas of research in anthropology, sociology, demography and economics; identifies the promising lines of inquiry recently undertaken; and points to key issues for future research, such as understanding how migrant networks impact migration behavior and migrants’ experiences. Such research into the specific mechanisms of social transmission will need to engage with the on-going discussions on networks effects and their identification in the social science literature at large, and will necessarily require the interdisciplinary collaboration of researchers.

Journal Article
Asad, Asad L. Working Paper. “On the Radar: System Embeddedness and Latin American Immigrants' Perceived Risk of Deportation”. SocArXiv. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Scholars suggest the applicability of the system avoidance concept to the U.S. immigration regime. On this theory, whereas undocumented immigrants are expected to be “on the run” from record-keeping bodies, documented immigrants are expected to feel secure “on the radar.” Yet, federal policy changes since the 1980s have made documented and undocumented immigrants alike vulnerable to deportation. How can researchers better account for the complex relationships between system involvement, avoidance, and deportability? Drawing on in-depth, multi-year interviews with Latin American immigrants in Dallas, Texas, I examine how noncitizens with varying degrees of involvement in the U.S. immigration regime perceive and respond to the risk of deportation. Although undocumented immigrants in this study recognize the precarity of lacking documentation, they sometimes believe themselves less vulnerable to deportation than documented immigrants. Meanwhile, despite the relative stability their legal status confers, documented immigrants of various designations in this study sometimes view themselves as more vulnerable to deportation than undocumented immigrants. To explain these perspectives, I develop the concept of “system embeddedness” to denote individuals’ perceived legibility to institutions that maintain formal records (i.e., a state of existing “in the system”). System embeddedness is one mechanism through which perceived visibility to the federal immigration regime entails risk, and perceived invisibility safety, for some noncitizens. In perceiving ostensibly “good” types of involvement with the U.S. immigration regime—such as documentation—as risky, “legal” and “illegal” noncitizens can be chilled out of opportunities for political, economic, and social inclusion and mobility. 

Asad, Asad L. Forthcoming. “Review of 'Migration and (Im)Mobility: Biographical Experiences of Polish Migrants in Germany and Canada' by Anna Xymena Wieczorek”. American Journal of Sociology 125 (6).
Asad, Asad L., and Jackelyn Hwang. Forthcoming. “Indigenous Places and the Making of Undocumented Status in Mexico-U.S. Migration”. International Migration Review. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The uneven distribution of economic and social resources across communities often falls along ethno-racial dimensions. Few demographers have considered whether such axes of place stratification in a migrant-sending country bear on individuals’ access to economic and social resources in a migrant-receiving country. Taking Mexico-United States migration flows as our focus, we examine if having origins in an indigenous place, a primary axis of stratification in Mexico, conditions migrants’ documentation status when crossing the border, a primary dimension of inequality in the United States. We rely on individual-level data from the Mexican Migration Project merged with municipal-level data from the Mexican Census. Using multilevel models, we find that migrants from communities in indigenous municipalities in Mexico are more likely to migrate undocumented than documented to the United States compared with those from non-indigenous municipalities, net of the economic and social resources identified in prior work as useful for international movement. We discuss why indigenous places—marked by a set of correlated conditions of economic and social disadvantage—channel migrants into an undocumented status. This study contributes to understandings of stratification processes in cross-border contexts and has implications for the production of inequality in the United States.

Asad, Asad L., and Jackelyn Hwang. 2019. “Migration to the United States from Indigenous Communities in Mexico ”. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 684 (1):120-145. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Research on Mexican migration to the United States has long noted how characteristics of individuals’ sending communities structure their opportunities for international movement. This literature has seldom considered how these characteristics overlap with the concentration of indigenous residents—those with origins in pre-Hispanic populations—in a community. Drawing on large-scale survey data from 143 communities surveyed by the Mexican Migration Project, supplemented with data from the Mexican Census, this article uses multilevel models to describe how the share of indigenous residents in a migrant-sending community relates to different aspects of the migratory process, focusing on (1) the decision to migrate to the United States and (2) the documentation used on migrants’ first U.S. trip. We do not find that indigenous shares are associated with the decision to migrate to the United States. However, relative to respondents living in communities in low-indigenous municipalities, those in communities in high- indigenous municipalities are more likely to migrate as undocumented rather than documented migrants. We conclude that indigenous places are more likely to be sites of economic and social disadvantage and therefore limit the possibilities their residents have for international movement.

Asad, Asad L. 2019. “Review of 'Immigrants Under Threat: Risk and Resistance in Deportation Nation' by Greg Prieto”. Social Forces 98 (1):e1-e3. asad_immsunderthreat_2019.pdf
Asad, Asad L., and Eva Rosen. 2019. “Hiding within Racial Hierarchies: How Undocumented Immigrants Make Residential Decisions in an American City”. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 45 (11):1857-1882. Publisher's VersionAbstract

In the United States, the residential segregation of Latinos from whites has persisted but has begun to fall between Latinos and blacks. Demographers offer the size of the Latino population that is undocumented as one potential explanation for these patterns. However, little work has examined undocumented immigrants’ first-hand accounts of their residential decisions. Drawing on 47 interviews with 20 undocumented-headed, Latin American-origin families in Dallas County, Texas, we explore how lacking legal status is related to residential selection processes. We find that some undocumented families perceive certain neighborhoods to be “off-limits,” not only because of financial constraints, explicit legal impediments to their tenure, or individual racial preferences, but also because they perceive them as high-risk: Most households in the study agree that law enforcement patrols areas with white majorities in order to exclude Latinos and, specifically, the undocumented. As a strategy to minimize the perceived risk law enforcement poses to their families’ stability, some undocumented families report opting into neighborhoods with Latino majorities in order to “blend in,” whereas others describe feeling safe in neighborhoods with black majorities where they can “hide in plain sight.” We demonstrate how undocumented families’ perceptions of law enforcement in neighborhoods with differing racial compositions may partly underlie trends in residential selection and stratification.

Asad, Asad L. 2019. “Deportation Decisions: Judicial Decision-Making in an American Immigration Court”. American Behavioral Scientist 63 (9):1221-1249. Publishers VersionAbstract

Drawing on ethnographic observations and informal conversations with judges in Dallas Immigration Court, as well as archival documents, this article describes two approaches through which judges in this setting justify their decisions during removal proceedings. The “scripted approach,” used to effect the routine removal of noncitizens in most of the completed cases observed, entails judges’ recitation of well-rehearsed narratives regarding the limited legal rights and remedies available to noncitizens. The “extemporaneous approach” involves judges moving beyond their scripts and deliberating in greater depth about noncitizens’ cases. In doing so, judges’ personal attitudes, biases, and motivations are often revealed as they articulate their desire to circumvent the removal process for noncitizens they view as “deserving” of relief—but for whom only temporary relief from removal is often available given judges’ interpretations of immigration law. Although judges recognize that this temporary relief may allow some noncitizens to remain in the United States indefinitely, incomplete protection from removal can leave noncitizens in a precarious legal status and jeopardize these individuals' future opportunities for legalization. These findings support a conceptualization of immigration judges as street-level bureaucrats, or frontline workers who interpret the law—sometimes unevenly—in order to enforce government policy while interfacing with the individuals subject to said policy, and amplify the social control capacity of the federal immigration regime.

Asad, Asad L., and Filiz Garip. 2019. “Mexico-U.S. Migration in Time: From Economic to Social Mechanisms”. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 684 (1):60-84. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This article adopts a mixed-methods approach to illustrate how economic, political, and social mechanisms work across time to shape individuals’ migration decisions. First, using large-scale survey data from the Mexican Migration Project, we show that economic, political, and social factors all matter for migration decisions, but that social factors come to matter for migration over time. Second, drawing on 120 in-depth interviews with migrants and their family members in four Mexican communities, we find that communities’ migration histories shape how economic, political, and social factors contribute to migration decisions at any point in time. In communities with limited migration histories, individuals migrate in order to relieve economic pressures on themselves or other household members. In communities with more-established migration histories, information and assistance from current or returned migrants help to overcome potential barriers to making the journey. Finally, in communities with a high incidence of migration, social factors act as independent causes of migration—apart from economic needs. These findings provide a deeper understanding of the processes underlying Mexico-U.S. migration, which is crucial for anticipating future flows and crafting policy responses.

Asad, Asad L., and Matthew Clair. 2018. “Racialized Legal Status as a Social Determinant of Health”. Social Science & Medicine 199:19-28. Publisher's VersionAbstract

This article advances the concept of racialized legal status (RLS) as an overlooked dimension of social stratification with implications for racial/ethnic health disparities. We define RLS as a social position based on an ostensibly race-neutral legal classification that disproportionately impacts racial/ethnic minorities. To illustrate the implications of RLS for health and health disparities in the United States, we spotlight existing research on two cases: criminal status and immigration status. We offer a conceptual framework that outlines how RLS shapes disparities through (1) primary effects on those who hold a legal status and (2) spillover effects on racial/ethnic in-group members, regardless of these individuals' own legal status. Primary effects of RLS operate by marking an individual for material and symbolic exclusion. Spillover effects result from the vicarious experiences of those with social proximity to marked individuals, as well as the discredited meanings that RLS constructs around racial/ethnic group members. We conclude by suggesting multiple avenues for future research that considers RLS as a mechanism of social inequality with fundamental effects on health.

Arcaya, Mariana C., et al. 2017. “Association of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms with Migraine and Headache after a Natural Disaster”. Health Psychology 36 (5):411-418. Publisher's VersionAbstract


Previous research shows that migraine and general headache symptoms increase after traumatic events. Questions remain about whether post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD produces migraine/headache symptoms, or if individuals afflicted by migraine/headache are especially likely to develop PTSD. We test whether PTSD symptoms following a natural disaster are associated with higher odds of reporting frequent headaches/migraines post-disaster. We decompose PTSD into intrusion, avoidance, and hyperarousal symptom clusters to examine which, if any, are uniquely related to headache/migraine post-disaster.


We use prospectively collected pre- and post-disaster data to explore whether overall PTSD symptoms and symptom clusters are associated with migraine/headache in a sample of Hurricane Katrina survivors. We account for severity of hurricane exposure and control for baseline migraine and headache problems to reduce the probability that heightened PTSD susceptibility among those who already suffered from the conditions could explain observed associations.


PTSD symptoms were associated with higher odds of experiencing frequent headaches or migraines with a standard deviation change in PTSD score corresponding to over twice the odds (95% CI: 1.64, 2.68) of having trouble with frequent headaches or migraines in the post-Katrina period. Each additional point on the intrusion subscale (sample mean [SD]: 1.6 [1.1]) was associated with 55% higher odds of reporting frequent headache/migraine (95% CI: 1.03, 2.33), but we found no association with avoidance or hyperarousal symptoms.


Clinicians and disaster planners should be aware that disaster survivors might be at heightened risk of migraine/headache episodes, and those experiencing intrusive reminders may be most affected.

Asad, Asad L. 2017. “Review of 'Border Lives: Fronterizos, Transnational Migrants, and Commuters in Tijuana' by Sergio Chávez”. Social Forces 95 (4):e19. Publisher's Version asad_2017.pdf
Garip, Filiz, and Asad L. Asad. 2016. “Network Effects in Mexico-U.S. Migration: Disentangling the Underlying Social Mechanisms”. American Behavioral Scientist 60 (10):1168-1193. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Scholars have long noted how migration streams, once initiated, obtain a self-feeding character. Studies have connected this phenomenon, called the cumulative causation of migration, to expanding social networks that link migrants in destination to individuals in origin. While extant research has established a positive association between individuals’ ties to prior migrants and their migration propensities, seldom have researchers interrogated how multiple social mechanisms—as well as exposure to common environmental factors—might account for these interdependencies. This article uses a mixed-methods strategy to identify the social mechanisms underlying the network effects in Mexico–U.S. migration. Three types of social mechanisms are identified, which all lead to network effects: (a) social facilitation, which is at work when network peers such as family or community members provide useful information or help that reduces the costs or increases the benefits of migration; (b) normative influence, which operates when network peers offer social rewards or impose sanctions to encourage or discourage migration; and (c) network externalities, which are at work when prior migrants generate a pool of common resources that increase the value or reduce the costs of migration for potential migrants. The authors first use large-sample survey data from the Mexican Migration Project to establish the presence of network effects and then rely on 138 in-depth interviews with migrants and their family members in Mexico to identify the social mechanisms underlying these network effects. The authors thus provide a deeper understanding of migration as a social process, which they argue is crucial for anticipating and responding to future flows. 

Asad, Asad L, and Tamara Kay. 2015. “Toward a Multidimensional Understanding of Culture for Health Interventions”. Social Science & Medicine 144:79-87. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Although a substantial literature examines the relationship between culture and health in myriad individual contexts, a lack of comparative data across settings has resulted in disparate and imprecise conceptualizations of the concept for scholars and practitioners alike. This article examines scholars and practitioners' understandings of culture in relation to health interventions. Drawing on 169 interviews with officials from three different nongovernmental organizations working on health issues in multiple countries—Partners in Health, Oxfam America, and Sesame Workshop—we examine how these respondents' interpretations of culture converge or diverge with recent developments in the study of the concept, as well as how these understandings influence health interventions at three different stages—design, implementation, and evaluation—of a project. Based on these analyses, a tripartite definition of culture is built—as knowledge, practice, and change—and these distinct conceptualizations are linked to the success or failure of a project at each stage of an intervention. In so doing, the study provides a descriptive and analytical starting point for scholars interested in understanding the theoretical and empirical relevance of culture for health interventions, and sets forth concrete recommendations for practitioners working to achieve robust improvements in health outcomes.

Asad, Asad L. 2015. “Contexts of Reception, Post-Disaster Migration, and Socioeconomic Mobility”. Population and Environment 36 (3):279-310. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Current theories conceptualize return migration to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina as an individual-level assessment of costs and benefits. Since relocation is cost prohibitive, return migration is thought to be unlikely for vulnerable populations. However, recent analyses of longitudinal survey data suggest that these individuals are likely to return to New Orleans over time despite achieving socioeconomic gains in the post-disaster location. I extend the “context of reception” approach from the sociology of immigration and draw on longitudinal data from the Resilience in the Survivors of Katrina Project to demonstrate how institutional, labor market, and social contexts influence the decision to return. Specifically, I show how subjective comparisons of the three contexts between origin and destination, perceived experiences of discrimination within each context, and changing contexts over time explain my sample’s divergent migration and mobility outcomes. I conclude with implications for future research on, and policy responses to, natural disasters.

Asad, Asad L., and Tamara Kay. 2014. “Theorizing the Relationship between NGOs and the State in Medical Humanitarian Development Projects”. Social Science & Medicine 120:325-333. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Social scientists have fiercely debated the relationship between non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the state in NGO-led development projects. However, this research often carries an implicit, and often explicit, anti-state bias, suggesting that when NGOs collaborate with states, they cease to be a progressive force. This literature thus fails to recognize the state as a complex, heterogeneous, and fragmented entity. In particular, the unique political context within which an NGO operates is likely to influence how it carries out its work. In this article, we ask: how do NGOs work and build relationships with different types of states and – of particular relevance to practitioners – what kinds of relationship building lead to more successful development outcomes on the ground? Drawing on 29 in-depth interviews with members of Partners in Health and Oxfam America conducted between September 2010 and February 2014, we argue that NGOs and their medical humanitarian projects are more likely to succeed when they adjust how they interact with different types of states through processes of interest harmonization and negotiation. We offer a theoretical model for understanding how these processes occur across organizational fields. Specifically, we utilize field overlap theory to illuminate how successful outcomes depend on NGOs' ability to leverage resources – alliances and networks; political, financial, and cultural resources; and frames – across state and non-state fields. By identifying how NGOs can increase the likelihood of project success, our research should be of interest to activists, practitioners, and scholars.

Waters, Mary C, Philip Kasinitz, and Asad L Asad. 2014. “Immigrants and African Americans”. Annual Review of Sociology 40 (1):369-390. Publisher's VersionAbstract

We examine how recent immigration to the United States has affected African Americans. We first review the research on the growing diversity within the black population, driven largely by the presence of black immigrants from the Caribbean and Africa. As their children and grandchildren come of age, relations between immigrants and African Americans are complicated by the fact that a growing portion of the African American community has origins in both groups. We then review literature on both new destinations and established gateway cities to illustrate the patterns of cooperation, competition, and avoidance between immigrants of diverse races and African Americans in neighborhoods, the labor market, and politics. We explore the implications of the population’s increasing racial diversity owing to immigration for policies that aim to promote racial equality but that are framed in terms of diversity. We conclude with suggestions for new areas of research.

Asad, Asad L., Michel Anteby, and Filiz Garip. 2014. “Who Donates Their Bodies to Science? The Combined Role of Gender and Migration Status among California Whole-Body Donors”. Social Science & Medicine 106:53-58. Publisher's VersionAbstract

The number of human cadavers available for medical research and training, as well as organ transplantation, is limited. Researchers disagree about how to increase the number of whole-body bequeathals, citing a shortage of donations from the one group perceived as most likely to donate from attitudinal survey data - educated white males over 65. This focus on survey data, however, suffers from two main limitations: First, it reveals little about individuals’ actual registration or donation behavior. Second, past studies’ reliance on average survey measures may have concealed variation within the donor population. To address these shortcomings, we employ cluster analysis on all whole-body donors’ data from the Universities of California at Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Two donor groups emerge from the analyses: One is made of slightly younger, educated, married individuals, an overwhelming portion of whom are U.S.-born and have U.S.-born parents, while the second includes mostly older, separated women with some college education, a relatively higher share of whom are foreign-born and have foreign-born parents. Our results demonstrate the presence of additional donor groups within and beyond the group of educated and elderly white males previously assumed to be most likely to donate. More broadly, our results suggest how the intersectional nature of donors’ demographics - in particular, gender and migration status - shapes the configuration of the donor pool, signaling new ways to possibly increase donations.

Asad, Asad L., and Monica C. Bell. 2014. “Winning to Learn, Learning to Win: Evaluative Frames and Practices in Urban Debate”. Qualitative Sociology 37 (1):1-26. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Sociologists of (e)valuation have devoted considerable attention to understanding differences in evaluative practices across a number of fields. Yet, little is understood about how individuals learn about and navigate multivalent valid group styles within a single setting. As a social phenomenon, many accept how central processes of evaluation are to everyday life. Accordingly, scholars have attempted to link research on evaluation to processes of inequality. Nevertheless, the sociology of evaluation only has tenuous, often implicit connections to literature on inequality and disadvantage. This article addresses these two gaps. Drawing on over two hundred hours of ethnographic fieldwork in an urban high school debate league (“League”), twenty-seven semi-structured interviews with League judges, and archival data, we illustrate how high school policy debate judges employ evaluative frames and link them to the implementation of evaluative practices in a disadvantaged setting. We show that the cultural meanings that emerge within the evaluation process—in this case, urban uplift and competition—stem from the conflicted context in which evaluation is occurring. We also make a first step toward applying the conceptual tools within the sociology of evaluation to a disadvantaged setting, and more broadly, suggest that micro-processes of evaluation are important to the study of urban inequality.