[URBANTH-L]IRBs and undocumented immigrants

Erick Castellanos ecastellanos at gmail.com
Mon Jun 4 23:42:22 EDT 2007

This is an important issue you are facing.  Immigrants(documented and not)
are already reluctant to speak to any kind of official looking individual
and having language like that will just close any possible research you
might accomplish.

You can protect your subjects and your research, though.  You need to get a
"Certificate of Confidentiality" issued by the Department of Health and
Human Services (DHHS).  This will protect you and your research from any
subpoenas.  Your IRB or institution should be able to help you with this.
You may want to check with people doing research in criminal issues at your
institution for some guidance as they get this certificate when doing
research with individuals involved in potential criminal activity.

Best of luck,


On 6/4/07, Lisa Maya Knauer <lknauer at umassd.edu> wrote:
> Hello there. I'm wondering if anyone out there in SUNTA-land has been
> working with undocumented immigrants and has any advice to offer. I'm
> developing a project on Central American communities in New Bedford, MA
> leading up to and in the aftermath of the recent ICE raids that resulted
> in the detention of 361 people, mostly women. I won't bore the list with
> all of the back-and-forth (most of which has been fairly amenable).  One
> of the stumbling blocks was my intention to share some of the research
> materials with one of the main immigrant advocacy groups in the area
> (Organizacion Maya K'iche), which will be facilitating my contacts among
> the Guatemalan community (the largest group in the area; most of the
> detained workers were Guatemalan), and whether that meant they were
> "engaged" and thus needing to submit their own IRB application (I think
> I've straightened this out).  However, the most recent issue has been a
> phrase they want me to add to the "informed consent" form (they did
> approve a signature waiver but I have a form that spells out what the
> project is about, risks and benefits, yadda yadda).  This has to do with
> whether or not I would turn over materials to the government.  My draft
> stated that I would not turn any materials over to government officials.
> My IRB wants me to add "unless subpoenaed".  Has anyone dealt with this
> particular issue? If so, please contact me at:  lknauer at umassd.edu
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Erick Castellanos, Ph.D.

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