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Laura Lopez-Sanders

The Center for Urban & Regional Studies is pleased to announce that Dr. Laura Lopez-Sanders from the Department of Sociology is our Scholar-in-Residence for 2015-16. Dr. Lopez-Sanders will use this opportunity to develop a proposal for research on the unintended consequences of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the ACA) on immigrant integration in new destinations.

Dr. Lopez-Sanders’ research explores how immigrants integrate in regions without an established co-ethnic network to assist in their settlement. This question has generated renewed public and scholarly interest as Latino immigration patterns have shifted to include regions that prior to the mid-1990’s had little or no Latino immigration. Findings to date have been inconclusive and current research focuses on the interaction between policy and institutions in integrating immigrants, particularly the undocumented, in new regions. Dr. Lopez Sanders will extend this research by examining how practices and processes influence the social and structural integration of immigrants in non-traditional immigrant regions such as the Carolinas.

As part of this research, Dr. Lopez-Sanders will ask if and how the implementation of the ACA generates racialized brokerage—the practice of mediating immigrant integration on the basis of race—as it relates to Latino immigrants. Latino immigrants represent nearly a third (32 percent) of the uninsured population. The ACA, however, expanded access for other uninsured populations while barring many Latino immigrants (legal residents with less than five years in the country and the undocumented) from Medicaid or other federally provided health care programs. Furthermore, policy barriers compound with immigrant processes. For example, informal jobs and precarious living arrangements can make it difficult for some undocumented immigrants to meet bureaucratic requirements, such as proof of low income or homelessness, to qualify for county indigent programs. Cultural, linguistic, social barriers, and fears of deportation have also contributed to the gap in access and use between the undocumented and other groups.

Dr. Lopez-Sanders’ project will explore the limits of brokerage and its effect on utilization of health and social assistance services in light of the implementation of the ACA. She intends to extend this research geographically to include new immigrant destinations in the Southeast where local policies are likely to be less inclusive than in traditional immigrant states like California.

The CURS Scholar-in-Residence program provides a course buy-out and funds for proposal development expenses so that faculty members in the social and behavioral sciences can develop large, ideally interdisciplinary, research proposals. Find out more about the Scholar-in-Residence program.

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