Data Scientist, Senior Data Scientist - Center on Immigration Justice(CIJ) - NYC, LA, DC

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 for two roles, Senior Data Scientist and Data Scientist. We are looking for candidates with personal immigration system experiences and/ or a demonstrated commitment to immigrant justice and race equity, to build out the data infrastructure and advanced quantitative analytics that will enable us to effect change through data-informed insights, research, and interventions.


  • Senior Data Scientist to lead data analytics and data engineering for the Unaccompanied Children Program (UCP). Work with UCP program management staff and external partners to solve difficult data migration, management, and integration challenges. Manage a team of 1-2 Data Analysts in database management, reporting, dashboard creation, and data quality assurance. Use forecasting, machine learning, and survival analysis techniques to inform program operations and perform program evaluation, primarily within UCP but also across other immigration research areas.


  • Data Scientist to build data analytics products using administrative datasets from immigration court proceedings and ICE detention. Build automated data pipelines and dashboards to make the data accessible to other Research team members. Advance CIJ’s understanding of the contents of these datasets and the inferences that can be made from them. Use predictive analytics and other modeling techniques on the data to improve outcomes for immigrants caught up in the immigration enforcement system. 


Some CIJ researchers work on a substantive program while others focus on specific areas of technical expertise. As such, all CIJ researchers 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 are enthusiastic, collaborative, curious, and kind. You bring life experiences that expand the perspective of our team.
  • You are intellectually nimble and excited to work across multiple projects, often at the same time. You have stellar technical skills and a commitment to the vision that data-driven evidence is key to narrative and policy change when deployed strategically.


What we need in you

  • Software engineering experience
    • Experience with Linux required
    • Experience with the combination of Python, R, and SQL highly preferred
    • You must be comfortable automating bespoke tasks (e.g. basic web scraping, dashboarding, using 3rd party APIs)
    • Experience with Docker and deploying Docker images preferred
    • Experience working with data in a distributed setting preferred
  • Advanced quantitative analytics experience
    • Robust understanding of statistics fundamentals required
    • Survival analysis experience is preferred, especially in the Senior-level role
    • Time-series forecasting experience is preferred, especially in the Senior-level role
    • Experience with deep learning frameworks such as TensorFlow or Keras is a bonus
  • Working knowledge of the AWS data product ecosystem (e.g. S3, ECS, Athena) preferred
  • Experience with Git and GitHub and dedication to using these tools to conduct peer code reviews and uphold coding standards
  • Able to build repeatable and well-documented processes and tools that can be used by other analytics team members
  • Always maintain a high level of data security and privacy
  • Project management. You are detail-oriented but can take initiative, see the big picture, and meet deadlines.
  • Communication. Excellent oral and written communication skills, including the ability to present the application of data analytics 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.
  • People with diverse backgrounds, including those with lived experience, are especially encouraged to apply.
  • This position is like to require low-level government security clearance.  
  • Some travel is required on an infrequent basis.
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