Wayne A. Cornelius

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Wayne Cornelius is a U.S. scholar of comparative migration and Mexican politics and development. He received his B.A. from the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio. Cornelius founded the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at the University of California, San Diego in 1979, and directed it from 1979–1994 and 2001-2003. He is also the founding director of UCSD’s Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, established in 1999, which conducts comparative research on international migration and immigration policy, especially in the North American, Western European, and Asia-Pacific regions.[1] Cornelius is also a Past President of the Latin American Studies Association.[2] Cornelius has also been a Research Fellow of the Institute for the Study of Labor (Bonn, Germany), and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (New York).

Professional career[edit]

Cornelius taught at UCSD from 1979 to 2009, most recently teaching courses on the comparative politics of immigration and field research methods. In 2003, he received the UCSD Alumni Association’s Distinguished Teaching Award,[3] and in 2005, the UCSD Academic Senate’s Distinguished Teaching Award[4] and the UCSD Latino Students’ Award for Faculty Mentoring. He retired at the end of the 2008-09 academic year, but remains actively engaged in immigration issues.


Cornelius' main expertise is on Mexico and Mexican immigration, and he has been described by The Nation magazine as “the nation’s foremost academic expert on Mexican immigration.”.[5] His research projects include a comparative study of the impacts of immigration control policies on Mexico-to-U.S. migration and Ecuadorean/Moroccan migration to Spain, studies of migration from traditional and recently emerged migrant-sending communities in rural Mexico, and a study of political integration among U.S.-based Mexican immigrants. Cornelius has also conducted research on immigration policies in North America, Western Europe (especially Spain), and Japan. His research has been supported by the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, the Tinker Foundation, the Foundation for Population, Migration, and Environment (Switzerland), and the Fundación BBVA (Spain).

Drawing on his research, Cornelius has been a vocal critic of U.S. immigration policy, concentrated border enforcement efforts, and civilian immigrant restrictionist movements that began in the mid-1990s and accelerated after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.[6] In 2003, he was quoted by L.A. Weekly as stating that “The U.S.-Mexican border has been 10 times deadlier to Mexican immigrants in the last 10 years than was the whole 28-year history of the Berlin Wall [to East Germans].”[7] His work on migration has been reviewed by Population and Development Review, which observes that Cornelius' findings "clearly demonstrate what knowledgeable migration economists had predicted" regarding the ineffectiveness of border enforcement.[8]

Immigration control proponents, such as Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter, disagree with Cornelius' assessment on U.S. immigration policy, especially border enforcement. Likewise, the civilian immigration enforcement group known as the Minutemen insists that their efforts are "meant to stop drug dealers, human traffickers, gang members and others who prey on U.S. citizens and immigrants alike."[9]

Cornelius has also conducted research in other areas of Mexican politics and U.S.-Mexican relations. A 1997 book on the decentralization of power and political processes in Mexico, which Cornelius co-edited, was described as "required reading" by Foreign Affairs.[10] His 2007 co-edited volume on Mexican justice sector reform was described by Foreign Affairs as hopeful that Mexico's "myriad problems can be resolved gradually over the longer term."[11]

His research and commentary has been featured in The Los Angeles Times,[12] The New York Times,[13] The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Times of London, Newsweek, US News, The Chronicle of Higher Education, NPR’s “All Things Considered,” and “Morning Edition,” PBS’s NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, BBC World Service, CNN Presents, CBS News’s “60 Minutes,” NBC Nightly News, and other major media outlets. There is an extended interview with Cornelius available from Frontline.

Selected publications[edit]

ISBN 978-0-268-02292-1 (paper).