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Criminalizing Latinidad

The recent criminalization of Latinx people has led to a “zero tolerance” deportation policy and consequent separation of children from their families. Can we shift the public discourse in order to preserve the basic dignity of all people?

2016 "Black/Brown Lives Matter" protest in Portland
“9-23-16 Protest” by Sam Scott

In the lead up to the 2016 Presidential Election, then candidate Trump made a series of disparaging and racist remarks about Latinx people in the US by calling immigrants from Mexico and Central America criminals, rapists, animals, and “bad hombres.” As President, Donald J. Trump has enforced a series of policies that have further dehumanized Latino/as by criminalizing them—not just in the court of public opinion—but through all manner of legal and judicial means.

This symposium presents a variety of responses to the current Border crisis, as well as other means of dehumanizing Latino/as in the US, such as the lack of adequate governmental response in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane María, or the systemic incarceration of Latinx youth in the growing Prison Industrial Complex. Contributors evaluate the ideological policies targeting “brown lives” by highlighting the work of religious-based NGOs, transnational religious bodies, and local faith communities seeking to shift the public discourse, challenge conceptions of sovereignty and border security, and preserve the basic dignity of all people. 

Leo Guardado begins the conversation with a deeply personal account of his own “criminality” as an undocumented immigrant and political refugee fleeing the violence in El Salvador after a decade of Civil War. Neomi De Anda brings her perspective as a Mexican American woman connected to a longstanding and rich tradition of Christian resistance along the Mexico-US border, while Victor Carmona focuses on the recent deployment of the US military to our Southern border as the ultimate escalation of weaponized border enforcement targeting immigration from Central America. Finally, Loida I. Martell offers a pneumatological response to the realities of mass migration in order to embody the call in Matthew 25:35: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me in.”

Each of these voices represents some aspect of the broad mosaic that is Latinidad in the United States. None of us are criminals or rapists—though some of us, in an act of political subversion, have embraced the label “bad hombres”—yet all of us continue to struggle for the tarnished ideals of our constitutional democracy while offering a prophetic voice of resistance to the politics of division, disenfranchisement, and death.

Symposium Essays

Criminal Communion

The social construction of the criminal other has long served as a justification for subjugation. Pope Francis has stated that the people of God can smell holiness, and perhaps there is also a greater need for the olfactory discernment of evil in our midst. Despite the risk of too literal an interpretation of this metaphor, deeper reflection is warranted of the ways in which evil must be resisted.

#NoBootsNoBedsNoWall: Cuentos on how Industrial Complexes Feed off the Social Sin of Othering

…and they all crossed freely

…and they were heard without initial judgement

From Faithful Patriot to Faithful Presence

The Trump administration’s most recent actions at the border signal the end of all pretense by the president—and many in his base—that Christian ethical principles should meaningfully inform U.S. immigration and asylum policies. Patriotism and faith have become indistinguishable.

Movement and Contra-movement: A Pneumatological Response to Migration

Life in God is defined by a joyous freedom of movement, a loving and adventurous invitation to the dance of the Spirit. The book of Acts is witness to those who accepted this invitation like Peter, moved to go to a Gentile centurion’s home, thus initiating a new ministry with global implications beyond his ken.