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Locating access to the immigration debate: analyzing the complex practices and propensities of intellectual production within the field of Immigration think tanks

by Barcelo, Emma Lee


My thesis examines the role that think tanks play in the immigration policy debates. Drawing from Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts of social space and fields of power, I critically analyze the space that immigration think tanks occupy and the influence they demonstrate with regard to their relational positioning in this space. According to Thomas Medvetz (2008:9-10), think tanks can be understood as an “organizational device for gathering and assembling forms of authority conferred by the more established institutions of academics, politics, business and the media” (Medvetz 2008: 9-10). By analyzing the intellectual products written by experts from five distinct think tanks, I seek to uncover the strategies, practices and propensities of each organization. This analysis allows for situating each organization in relation to each other. I also include in the analysis each think tanks unique orientation to the proximate locations of power. For my thesis, I examine a think tank sample that includes the Urban Institute (government contract model orientation); Migration Policy Institute (academic orientation); National Immigration Forum (economic orientation); Federation for American Immigration Reform (ideological orientation); and National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (grassroots orientation). By coding the policy-oriented publications of each think tank, I create a conceptual field through which I can visualize each organizations unique location in relation to each other. This field emerged out of positioning each organization on two primary axes: (1) the epistemological axis, which measures whether the legitimacy and/or authority of the intellectual products rest upon academic/scholarly/objective evidence or more upon a popular/narrative evidence and (2) the political rationale/axis, which measures whether the intellectual products on US immigration policy reflect a focus on its national impact or on a more comprehensive goal of internationally recognized human rights. I explore a third axis, which measures the interests that are being promoted (if any) in terms of business interests vs. worker interests. I conclude with a discussion as to which think tank is the most effective among the five and I explain why I think their particular characteristics put them in their particular position such that they have the greatest potential to influence immigration policy.


Includes bibliographical references.

Administrative Notes


Copyright restrictions apply.
Colorado College
Digital Origin
born digital
43 pages : color illustrations
Senior Thesis -- Colorado College
Thesis Advisor
Bakker, Matt
Degree Name
Degree Type
Bachelor of Arts
Degree Grantor
Colorado College
Date Issued