Refugees as New Minorities


This project emerges from her dissertation project entitled “Refuge: Syrian Refugee Incorporation and the Production of New Minorities.” It examines the process by which newly resettled Syrian refugees rebuilt their lives in the United States within the constraints of resettlement policy, and how their experiences differed from their counterparts in Canada, Germany and Italy. She conducted this research as the world faced its largest refugee crisis since World War II. Since resettlement policy reflects immigration and social service systems, this international comparative study both examines what refuge and asylum mean as “solutions” to refugee crises and reflects on how these countries’ policies vary in their production of economic and racial minorities.

From this project, she has written two articles.

The first, “Diverging by Gender,” explores how household gender inequalities, stratified labor-markets, and an insufficient social service system affect human capital development. Counter-intuitively, she finds that women, by staying out of the labor market, were able to attend English classes, gaining a crucial resource for integration, while men, who entered menial jobs on behalf of the family, could not.  Through this case, she theorizes human capital as a gendered immigration outcome. This article is forthcoming Gender and Society.

The second, “Resettled and Unsettled,” shows, through a chronological description, how Syrian refugees came to recognize their identities – as Arab and Muslim – as racialized in their first year of resettlement, as a result of rhetoric surrounding Donald Trump’s candidacy and subsequent policies as President. She shows how they experienced a diminished sense of legal and interpersonal safety, despite their privileged legal status, at what she calls a moment of “acute racialization.” She has been invited to revise and resubmit this article at Ethnic and Racial Studies.

Heba’s dissertation work on this project won research awards from the National Science Foundation, and the Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy. Her work has also been referenced in the New Yorker and has contributed to New York Times coverage on Syrian refugees. Her advocacy work has been covered in local outlets including the New Haven Independent.