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About Óscar Gil-García

Óscar Gil-García conducts ethnographic research that lies at the intersection of forced migration, humanitarianism and development. He has over ten years of expertise and experience in conducting research with disadvantaged indigenous Mayan migrants from Guatemala. His work examines barriers to their incorporation in La Gloria, a former refugee settlement located in Mexico’s southernmost border state of Chiapas and the U.S. 

Gil-García is currently engaged in a new research project that identifies the legal barriers to naturalization and citizenship for indigenous Mayan Guatemalan deportees and returnees from the U.S. in Mexico. A collaboration with La Gloria community leaders, and attorney Julia Guadalupe Torres Ventura, resulted in a successful petition to the Mexican government to initiate the naturalization process for members of three refugee settlement communities - La Gloria, San Francisco, and Nueva Libertad (El Colorado) - who for more than 30 years remained stateless.

In 2016, he initiated an ethnographic-photo-documentary project in each community, in collaboration with his brother and professional photographer Manuel Gil, which involved single portraits of 26 subjects, and another with their families.  These photographs, along with ethnographic descriptions, will illustrate their strength, strategies for survival, and barriers to social, political, and economic incorporation they and their families faced as a consequence of their lack of legal status in Mexico. Findings from this ongoing study will be used to shape policies that enable the legalization of stateless migrants who fled Guatemala from military conflict since the early 1980s and now reside in Mexico.

With support from the Transdisciplinary Area of Excellence Intramural Grant he will begin research in 2017 on a new study where he will collect qualitative data at a school-based health clinic (SBHC) from SBHC staff (educators, clinicians, attorneys) to assess the strength of the educational, health, and legal services provided to unaccompanied minors in Oakland, California. The study will also assess how staff at the SBHC integrates Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs) vs. new arrivals (who evaded apprehension) into the US healthcare system following the 2016 Medi-Cal (the state’s Medicaid program) expansion or contraction (following possible policy changes in the Affordable Care Act) to unauthorized immigrants. The study will enable the accrual of rich ethnographic data to extract information on how the investment or divestment of the SBHC intervention promotes health access, utilization of services, community health and resilience. Findings will impact public health policy by introducing interventions with the potential to reduce public costs, improve quality of life, and the human right to health for vulnerable immigrant children and their families.


Present Assistant Professor, Binghamton University--SUNY

Honors and Awards

  • Best article prize by the Latino/a and Ethnic, and Racial Minorities Sections of the American Sociological Association and Latino/a Studies Section of the Latin American Studies Association.


BA, Vassar College ‐ Sociology
MA, University of California, Santa Barbara ‐ Sociology
PhD, University of California, Santa Barbara ‐ Sociology

Contact Information

 Office: University Downtown Center, Room 421
      Office Phone: 607-777-9205