On any given day, federal agencies inspect about a million people entering the United States and 50,000 truck, rail, and sea containers. Trillions of dollars in wire transfers move through banks and financial institutions, and thousands of refugees cross international borders. Transnational flows such as these have long been an important element of the international system, creating both opportunities and risks for the U.S. and countries throughout the world.


CISAC scholars are actively engaged in seeking to understand the causes and effects of the movement of people, money, legal and illicit goods, and even ideas across boundaries and borders. Policy-oriented research can help decision-makers understanding the relationship between particular flows and distinct aspects of security. The study of migration in the context of security and international cooperation, for example, implicates not only terrorist mobility but also immigrant integration, identity management, border security, and the impact of migrant networks on development and public diplomacy.

Former CISAC Co-Director Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, currectly director of CISAC's parent orgnanization, the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, has worked in both the policy and research arenas on the issue of transnational criminal networks. Among his projects is an examination of the interplay between great powers and non-state actors, and the effect of U.S. policies on drug trafficking and cross-border violence. Cuéllar's policy and academic work has also focused on domestic and international migration as well as transnational financial flows.

Researchers also study the security dimensions of migration, refugees, and internally displaced persons, as well as the legal, moral, and ethical context in which policies regarding migration are developed. Such work includes Kelly M. Greenhill's analysis of the use of the threat of mass migration as a tool of war, and Alexander Betts' work on the governance of global migration, as well as his attempt to understand refugees within the context of international relations theory. Kenneth Schultz and Hein Goemans are researching the nature and origin of territorial disputes and the relationship between the way borders are drawn and international stability.

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Migration and Transnational Flows