Lee's research focuses on the inclusive community economic development of low-income migrant communities in the US and the Pacific (especially Guam, Hawaii and the geographical region of Micronesia). Overarching themes in Lee's writings include geographies of Pacific Islander migration and incorporation; institutional and political-economic factors that enable and constrain possibilities of social and economic solidarities across racial/ethnic lines; and the role of non-traditional actors (e.g. worker centers, work-integration social enterprises, human service providers) in workforce development programs, policy and politics. Lee has served on the MIT Title IX Student Advisory Board and actively collaborates with community-based organizations in Los Angeles and in Hawaii.
Notes that human service nonprofits and immigrant-led social movement organizations play an essential role in building a viable social movement centered on the abolition of immigration detention centers. Draws on the case study of #EndTransDetention in Santa Ana, California. Demonstrates that the failure to collaborate resulted in an ideological split that resulted in prolonged movement stagnancy, while their collaboration resulted in a series of local policy wins, including the successful abolition of the local LGBT immigrant detention center.
Notes that transgender patients of color have different experiences compared to their white transgender or cisgender racial/ethnic minority counterparts. Finds most respondents believed they would be treated better if they were cisgender or white. Finds they commonly cited providers’ assumptions about TPOC as instrumental to negative healthcare experiences, and sought out healthcare locations designated as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT)-friendly in an effort to avoid discrimination, but feared experiencing racism there. Finds a minority of participants expressed a preference for providers of color; but a few reported reluctance to reveal their gender identity to providers of their own race due to fear of transphobia.
Notes that traditional ideas of "creaming" propose that perverse performance metrics incentivize individual nonprofits to deliberately exclude disadvantaged clients with perceived lower chances for success in programs. Draws from qualitative interviews with workforce development nonprofit staff in Los Angeles. Shows that exclusion of the most marginalized occurs through "structural creaming," which increases the number and intensity of performance metrics, places more limits on amount and use of public funding, and intensifying paperwork requirements for nonprofits.