Alumni Short Talks: Hearing Muted Voices: Using Radical Subjectivity to Address Homeland Security Issues

As technology becomes more prevalent and impersonal, Lier Chen challenges policymakers to stop their reliance upon simplistic interpretations of data that cause reactionary decisions. She provides a new tool, Muted Voices, that uses radical subjectivity as a qualitative baseline to identify, access, and hear firsthand experiences of people in a particular ecosystem. The tool can be used to better-inform policies and to address the root causes of problems. From her research and firsthand accounts, Chen gives fictional narratives of a Honduran immigrant, a border agent, and a USCIS officer to show the effectiveness of incorporating radical subjectivity into policy development.

About the Speaker

Lier Chen has worked with different immigrant and refugee populations in the United States and abroad. She has been in government service with USCIS since January 2017 with responsibilities for adjudicating complex and sensitive applications and petitions for immigration benefits. Before joining USCIS, she was Interim Director of U.S. Programs at HIAS, the oldest U.S. refugee resettlement agency. She was involved in monitoring and evaluating HIAS programs, including overseas in Austria, Ecuador, Panama, Venezuela, and across the United States. Ms. Chen served in the U.S. Peace Corps in Mongolia from 2005 to 2007. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wesleyan University and a Master of Arts degree from the Heller School of Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. In December 2020, she earned a Master of Arts degree from the Center for Homeland Defense and Security, Naval Postgraduate School. Her Master’s thesis, titled Muted Voices: Toward an Understanding of the U.S. Asylum Program at the Southwest Border,¬†won the 2020 Outstanding Thesis Award.