The Migrant Peacebuilding Project

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Population: Our target population is Central American migrants in North-central New Jersey. Research will be conducted at El Centro Hispanoamericano in Plainfield, New Jersey. El Centro is a non-profit organization that that has a twenty-seven year history of counseling and representing migrants, including the undocumented. El Centro covers matters such as “political asylum, cancellation of removal, temporary protected status, and naturalization.” In addition to legal assistance, El Centro offers citizenship and ESL courses as part of its effort to help immigrants become productive members of their community. They also run an emergency food pantry for those in need. El Centro’s leaders founded the organization in Plainfield, NJ because of the substantial migrant population in the town. According to the 2010 census, there were 20,105 Hispanics in Plainfield, consisting of roughly forty percent of the population. We will collaborate with El Centro and use their connections to reach out to migrants who live in the area or travel to use the center’s resources.

Methods: We will use a variety of methods to answer our question. It is important to use different methods because we are looking into a sensitive topic. We will work to foster positive relationships and to create an atmosphere of dialogue. Due to time constrains, we will rely on the trusting relationship that our informants have with El Centro. With interviews, we can build personal connections to share ideas and opinions. For those who are not comfortable having a one on one interview, we will host several focus groups.

With both of these methods there are many ethical concerns and limitations. We need to be careful to protect identities and to create a space that the interviewees feel comfortable in. The sensitivity of the subject is also what will be the most challenging aspect of the project. We will need to work very hard to establish relationships of trust, otherwise we are less likely to receive detailed answers. To ensure further protection we will use pseudonyms, change any facts or characteristics that could lead back to an interview subject, and be sure that participants know what our purpose is and how this information will be used. We crafted several questions about deportation that we want to ask in both our interviews and focus groups. If you would like to know more about this, please email

Settings of Research: We will conduct our research at El Centro, venturing out into surrounding area when we are invited to do so. In the center itself, we will host events and provide food and drinks in order to conduct focus groups and interviews. In addition to hosting our own events we will observe ESL and citizenship classes, which will allow us to see the dynamics of how migrants view the U.S. immigration system.