Natasha Bansal, a double major in political science and Spanish, wrote her political science senior thesis on the impact of immigrant-led grassroots activism on the passage of progressive redistributive policies in San José, California.
Bansal’s interest in her topic stemmed from an Urban Politics course she had taken with her thesis advisor, Professor of Political Science Steve McGovern, in her sophomore year.
“In this course, we learned about the place-specific factors that facilitate or obstruct the passage of progressive policies in American cities,” Bansal said. “Professor McGovern helped me narrow down my research question and create an inductive research design which included a number of independent variables I could study before ultimately determining which one or two were most important in explaining the strength of a particular city’s immigrant-led grassroots campaigns.”
Bansal says she learned a lot throughout her thesis research, and one lesson that stood out was that immigrant rights are inextricably linked to economic justice for all.
“I had wanted to focus on the relationship between immigrant-led grassroots organizing and progressive economic policies rather than progressive immigrant rights policies because I felt that the former was understudied, but I came to realize that immigrant participation in effective grassroots organizing is largely contingent on the existence of substantive legislation that protects and empowers immigrant populations,” Bansal said. “The most rewarding part of my research was getting to travel to San José, California with support from the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship’s Community-Engaged Learning program to interview immigrant activists and organizers, as well as observe the work that community organizations are engaging in to promote economic justice. I was able to see for myself what it looks like to build a campaign from the ground up by going canvassing with a group of volunteers to gain support for COPA, an affordable housing policy that I included as a case study in my thesis.”
With the conclusion of her research, Bansal hopes her senior thesis will serve as a guide on how to pass progressive policies through the use of successful grassroots campaigns in American cities.
“I want it to be of use not only for researchers and academics, but also activists and citizens who are interested in promoting economic justice and progressive agendas in their respective cities,” Bansal said. “I also hope that the recognition of the crucial role that immigrants play in grassroots organizing for progressive economic policies that benefit everyone helps to counter the harmful and untrue narratives of immigrants as economic threats to this country.”
Bansal will begin working as a Paralegal Specialist in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice at the end of August. She’s planning to attend law school in a year or two but she’s “excited by the prospect of combining my interests in policy and law in my career down the line.”
“What They Learned” is a blog series exploring the thesis work of recent graduates.