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Senior Research Associate (multiple positions available - NYC, LA, DC), CIJ

At the Vera Institute of Justice, our vision is of a society that respects the dignity of every person and safeguards justice for all. At a propitious moment for justice reform, we are standing up and driving change on a variety of fronts—eliminating cash bail, ending mass incarceration, vastly improving life behind bars, ensuring that immigrants get due process, and centering all this work in racial equity. Over the past few years, with 2.2 million people behind bars we’ve reached a tipping point, and justice reform has become mainstream. It’s on the front pages, it’s bipartisan, it’s got new funders, it’s attracting cultural attention. Vera has been on the cutting edge of this change.


Convincing people to change the way they think and act in order to serve justice is in our DNA. Using evidence to creatively advance our arguments is core to our mission. If you are looking for an opportunity to develop rigorous research that helps shape and compel narrative and policy change on one of the most urgent justice issues of our time, read on.


For the past two decades, Vera’s Center on Immigration and Justice (CIJ) has been partnering with government leaders, advocates, the immigration legal services community, and the public to build a movement for publicly-funded deportation defense for immigrants facing deportation. We are testing models, piloting solutions, and generating evidence in support of this goal through programs like our Legal Orientation Programs, Unaccompanied Children Program, National Qualified Representative Program, and SAFE Network. There is an urgency to this work. Last year, more than half a million non-citizens were booked into immigration detention, including tens of thousands of immigrant children. More than 6.5 million people have been deported in the past few decades alone. Our research has shown it is almost impossible to advance a successful defense, especially from inside detention, without the assistance of an attorney, and our programs are demonstrating the benefits that accrue when due process is available to all persons in the United States, regardless of citizenship status. We believe with a greater body of evidence demonstrating the long-term human, social, and economic effects of detention and deportation, alongside the benefits of counsel, we can get closer to a world in which justice is available to everyone.  


That’s where you come in. We are looking to hire up to four innovative, methodologically rigorous senior researchers with personal immigration system experiences and/ or a demonstrated commitment to immigrant justice and race equity, to help drive the growing agenda our interdisciplinary team is advancing. We are looking for people who understand the demands of an applied research setting and can fill one or more substantive and methodological needs (we are open to combining the roles in creative ways as appropriate, and ask that candidates submit only one application and cover letter describing which role or combination of roles they envision undertaking):


  • Senior Research Associate – Unaccompanied Children’s Program to lead mixed-methods research—which must include quantitative analyses—and a team of 4-5 researchers supporting our work to provide access to lawyers for unaccompanied children in and released from federal custody across the country. This position requires experience working with immigrant youth and/ or children involved with the juvenile system and knowledge of or ability to quickly learn the complexities of the immigration legal system as it applies to children. We are looking for an energetic, creative, and skilled social scientist who can work with a large team of program staff to manage reporting on our unaccompanied children work and develop and lead innovative research in support of our vision to ensure all immigrant children have access to justice and due process in detention and after they are reunified with family. This is a new position in response to our growing work.   


  • Senior Research Associate – Data Lab in Support of Universal Representation to support partners around the country seeking Vera’s analytical assistance with research in support of advocacy campaigns for publicly funded deportation-defense. This position requires a quantitatively-trained, broad thinker who is well-versed in and comfortable analyzing publicly-available immigration datasets and statistics (ideally but not limited to immigration court, detention, and legal representation) and writing them up for non-researchers to use in advocacy, including through data visualizations or other accessible media, as well as participating in evaluation of Vera’s various legal access programs, and working with data collected by practitioners interested in elevating the impact of their work. The person in this position will work closely with the SAFE team and across CIJ’s projects, coordinating with other senior research and program staff, supervising data and research analysts, interacting with a wide range of partners in the field, and working closely with our senior policy staff to craft compelling evidence-based messages and arguments. This includes developing original research in support of CIJ’s goals. This is a new position in response to growing demand for this work.


  • Senior Research Associate – Ethnographic and Qualitative Methods to supervise and build qualitative research work across CIJ’s projects. This position requires an experienced interviewer trained in rigorous qualitative methods, able to mentor other staff and lead a portfolio of people-centered research projects that elevate the human impact of immigration policy and Vera’s legal access programs. This person must be eager to travel, fluent in Spanish, an exceptionally nimble and sensitive ethnographer, comfortable talking to and creating space for the voices of people who have experienced migration and are directly impacted by immigration enforcement, detention, and deportation, and able to write powerful stories about these impacts. This is a new position in response to the increased need for qualitative research across our projects and our desire to more deliberately partner with impacted people to elevate their voices and concerns. 


  • Senior Research Associate – Quantitative Methods and Advanced Statistical Modeling to work in partnership with senior data science and research staff to enhance our ability to deploy key analytical and data management tools in order to carry out sophisticated quantitative analysis. Ideally, this person has substantive professional experience analyzing large datasets of 1 million observations or more using R, Python, Stata, or SAS. The person in this role will work with administrative and programmatic datasets (ideally in the immigration context), and is comfortable designing and leading both causal and predictive analysis. The ideal person for this role will be familiar with statistical methods useful in analyses of immigration processes, including survival analysis, and fluent enough in advanced statistics—and the real-world impediments to ideal research design—to creatively deploy a range of approaches to evaluation of our programs and their impacts, and more broadly to measuring the social and economic impact of U.S. immigration policies. This is a new position in response to the increased need for additional senior capacity to supervise and train data science and research staff working on quantitative projects and creatively advance our research agenda using the most sophisticated analytical approaches.   


What you’ll do in this role

Beyond the descriptions above, Senior Research Associates in CIJ work with the Research Director for the Center on Immigration and Justice and collaboratively with an interdisciplinary team to conduct, supervise, describe, and advance research in support of CIJ’s goals, including its efforts in support of universal representation for immigrants facing deportation. This involves both jumping into and shaping existing work as well as collaboratively conceiving and developing new research. Some SRAs in CIJ oversee research on a substantive program while others oversee research requiring specific methodologies. As such, all senior research staff work closely with each other and program directors to advance our goals and mission. Researchers are both full members of the centers and programs they work in and join a robust, interdisciplinary research department with methodological and subject matter experts from around the institute.


Who you are

  • You are passionate about social and racial justice, motivated to drive change, and unafraid to challenge the status quo. You understand immigration justice issues and have experience conducting rigorous research in this field. You are enthusiastic, collaborative, curious, and kind. You are intellectually nimble and excited to work across multiple projects, often at the same time. You care deeply about racial and class equity—in your research, your work, with your colleagues, and around the office. You bring life experiences that expand the perspective of our team. You have stellar methodological skills and a commitment to the vision that evidence is key to narrative and policy change when deployed strategically.
  • You have experience mentoring people and managing projects and can lead, both collaboratively and independently. You are a confident representative of the work to internal and external audiences and a range of partners, in both creative written and visual products and oral presentations. You thrive in interdisciplinary settings, do not want to be in an academic environment, and understand the pace of applied policy research.


What we need in you

  • Expertise. Background conducting immigration, immigration policy, or justice reform research and familiarity with research and literature in the field. Enough knowledge of/ expertise in the issues we work on to be able to make creative, innovative, evidence-based arguments that complement the work of others internally and in the field. Demonstrated ability to conceive, implement, analyze data from, and write up results of research projects that meet peer review standards while also being accessible and interesting to a general audience. Advanced training in specific social science methods, theory, and approaches, either in a Ph.D. program or with another advanced degree and 5+ years of relevant applied research work experience.
  • Leadership. Proven ability to supervise a team or set of projects across teams, including training staff on methods, software, or technology necessary to research work and working with non-researchers to cultivate interesting, relevant ideas into viable research projects.
  • Project management. You are detail-oriented but can see the big picture. You have keen time management and multitasking skills, including the ability to take initiative, prioritize tasks and duties, pay close attention to detail, and work independently while meeting specific deadlines.
  • Communication. Excellent oral and written communication skills, including ability to present research results to a range of audiences in a variety of formats, and work effectively on a large team to advance shared priorities.
  • Emotional intelligence. You demonstrate strong social and emotional awareness with your team and external partners. You’re open to opportunities to learn and grow. You exercise good judgment and don’t allow urgency to trump relationships.
  • Collaboration. Collaboration is a Vera value. We thrive when we learn and build on each other’s ideas, thinking rigorously to solve problems. We’re open to giving and receiving feedback—both in our team and across the institution. On the research team, this includes demonstrating an interest in programs and methods other than those you employ and incorporating them into your approach.
  • A deep commitment to racial equity. In a system built on racism and inequity, we are working to ensure equity both in our workplace and in the world. You incorporate this value, share it with others, and lead with these principles.


The Nitty - Gritty

  • The preferred location for this position is Brooklyn, NY but Vera also has offices in LA and DC, and we are open to considering those locations as appropriate for people comfortable connecting to colleagues remotely and travelling to New York as needed.
  • People with diverse backgrounds, including those with lived experience, are especially encouraged to apply.
  • Some, but not all, senior positions, may require low-level government security clearance necessary for analysis of confidential data.  
  • Some travel is required of all the positions. Qualitative researchers should expect to travel across New York State and nationally on a regular basis.


When you join our team

  • You can expect to work with a team of amazing people who have tenacity, are creative, scrappy, and are committed to getting the work done. Why? Because our work is urgent, impactful, and more important than ever.
  • You can count on doing solutions-oriented and policy-driven analysis that is innovative and fulfilling. We ask difficult questions and entertain unconventional answers so we can reckon with the uncomfortable truths of our work.
  • You will have great benefits and work-life balance. Driving meaningful change is hard work. But we also know that you have a life, places to go, and people to see.



Based on experience and including excellent benefits. Vera believes in compensating its staff members at or above market.


How to Apply

Please submit a resume and cover letter detailing your interest in this position. Only applications with cover letters will be considered. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis until position is filled. Candidates can be based in one of Vera’s offices (Brooklyn, DC, or LA). Online submission in PDF format (through Vera’s careers page) is preferred. However, if necessary, materials may be mailed to:


ATTN: People Resources / Senior Research Associate, CIJ

Vera Institute of Justice

34 35th Street, Suite 4-3B

Brooklyn, NY 11232

Fax: (212) 941-9407

No phone calls, please. Only applicants selected for interviews will be contacted.


Vera is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.  All qualified applicants will be considered for employment without unlawful discrimination based on race, color, creed, national origin, sex, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, military status, prior record of arrest or conviction, citizenship status, current employment status, or caregiver status.

Vera works to advance justice, particularly racial justice, in an increasingly multicultural country and globally connected world. We value diverse experiences, including with regard to educational background and justice system contact, and depend on a diverse staff to carry out our mission.


For more information about Vera’s work, please visit

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