Immigration Historian Receives American Philosophical Society Grant

Professor Llana Barber

Dr. Llana Barber of the American Studies Department was recently awarded a Franklin Research Grant by the American Philosophical Society (APS) to conduct research for her project “No Refuge from Empire: Haitian Migration, Militarized Exclusion, and the Formation of the Nativist State.” The grant will support Barber's research in Geneva and the Bahamas about the militarized exclusion of Haitian migrants from the United States, Bahamas, and Dominican Republic during the time period between 1970 to 1995.

"Immigration historians usually focus on people who successfully arrive in the United States, but it is becoming increasingly clear that our immigration system is actually designed to keep the majority of the world out,” said Associate Professor Barber when asked why she started looking into the project. "I wanted to write a history of the policies and practices that prevent people from immigrating to the United States, and this grant will help me complete that research."

After fleeing a dictatorship and brutal military regimes, Haitian migrants tried to enter Florida in this era via overcrowded boats. Rather than providing refuge to the asylum seekers, the United States transformed its laws and procedures to block the entry of the vast majority of Haitians, using the Coast Guard to patrol off the coast of Haiti and send most asylum seekers back to Haiti. The treatment of Haitian asylum seekers in this era formed the basis for much of our current immigration system, so Haitian experiences of migrant exclusion are key to understanding the broader U.S. system.

The American Philosophical Society, the oldest learned society in the United States, was founded in 1743 by Benjamin Franklin for the purpose of “promoting useful knowledge.” The APS’s current activities reflect Franklin's spirit of inquiry, provide a forum for the free exchange of ideas, and convey the conviction that intellectual inquiry and critical thought are inherently in the best interest of the public.

Dr. Barber is the author of "Latino City: Immigration and Urban Crisis in Lawrence, Massachusetts, 1945-2000," which won the Lois P. Rudnick Book Prize from the New England American Studies Association in 2018. She earned her Ph.D. from Boston College and her B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley.