New UC Law SF Center Tackles Issues of Race, Citizenship & Equality

Professor Ming Hsu Chen — an expert on race, immigration, and citizenship – has launched a new center at UC Law SF this fall that will pursue groundbreaking research on equality issues and collaborate with other scholars and academic institutions.

Chen, who previously founded the Immigration and Citizenship Law Program at the University of Colorado, was a visiting professor before joining the UC Law SF permanent faculty this year.

The Center on Race, Immigration, Citizenship, and Equality (RICE) will offer lectures, conferences, panel discussions, research projects, student employment opportunities, and law classes with fieldwork components. It will promote scholarly engagement and forge links between other centers at UC Law SF, including the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies (CGRS) and the Center for Racial and Economic Justice (CREJ).

Chen said she wants people to understand intersections between concepts of race, immigration, and citizenship as they pertain to equality. She said one way to do this is to apply the lenses of different fields of study. To that end, the RICE Center will host a half-day conference on Nov. 18 on “belonging” featuring experts from UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, and Stanford University. “It’s a chance for leaders of research institutes that do related work to share resources and ideas about how universities approach these issues at an institutional level,” said Chen.

Additional goals include getting students involved in interdisciplinary research. Chen said as part of her seminar this fall on Citizenship and Equality, law students will interview immigrants and do fieldwork, including helping people fill out applications for citizenship. “It’s a way to make sure that what students are learning is connected to the real world,” she said.

She has plans for a spring colloquium on Race, Citizenship and Equality that will include legal scholars, practicing lawyers, and immigration advocates, open to the Hastings community. Enrolled students will delve deeper into papers with a closed session following the public lectures, she said, “It’s a way to have these experts in dialogue with our students and our faculty and to share that with the world outside of the law school.”

Finally, Chen said she is considering commissioning original research on high-skilled workers and Documented Dreamers, a group of some 200,000 children of long-term visa holders who come to the U.S. lawfully but face deportation if they can’t obtain independent legal status by age 18. “It is the type of understudied issue that is important in San Francisco, the hub of technology, and has implications nationwide,” she said.

Chen added that law students and research assistants could interview migrant parents and students about their experiences and the problems they would face being returned to a country they haven’t lived in for many years and where they may be unfamiliar with the language and culture – much like undocumented DREAMers. The findings would then be published and shared with policymakers and advocacy groups.

For more information about the RICE Center and its upcoming events, click here.