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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Faith and Border Ethics: Immigration and Human Dignity in Trump's America

panel discussion

Border fence and road.

panel discussion

Kristin Heyer, Boston College
Daniel Kanstroom, Boston College Law School
Hosffman Ospino, Boston College School of Theology and Ministry
Peter Skerry, Boston College 

Date: Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Time: 6-7:30pm
Location: McGuinn 121

Crossing borders, for any nation, is as necessary as maintaining them. America, commonly touted as a nation of immigrants, was quickly defined by her borders: oceanic and political borders that were crossed in order to found her, and the national borders which rapidly expanded, across peoples and land, in order to define her. People have been crossing America's borders from the birth of America. However, it is also America's heritage to limit who can cross, why they can cross, and when. Immigration policy throughout American history is proof of this, and the agonizing images of children being separated from their parents at U.S.-Mexico border this past summer were a stark, recent, reminder of how quickly immigration policy can become depersonalized and inhumane. As people interested in the study and role of religion in public life, can we define an ethics of borders? 

kristin heyer

Kristin E. Heyer is a professor of theology at Boston College, where she teaches on Chrsitian ethics, specifically social ethics, migration ethics, and moral agency. Her research interests also include questions of Catholic social thought, and religion and politics. Heyer's books include Kinship Across Borders: A Christian Ethic of Immigration (Georgetown University Press, 2012) and Prophetic and Public: the Social Witness of U.S. Catholicism (Georgetown University Press, 2006), which won the College Theology Society’s “Best Book Award." She has also published the co-edited volumes Conscience and Catholicism: Rights, Responsibilities and Institutional Responses (Orbis Press, 2015) and Catholics and Politics: Dynamic Tensions between Faith and Power (Georgetown University Press, 2008). Heyer's articles have appeared in Theological StudiesThe Journal of Catholic Social Thought, The Journal of Peace and Justice StudiesPolitical Theology, Asian Horizons and America. She received her B.A. from Brown University and her Ph.D. in Theological Ethics from Boston College in 2003.  

dan kanstroom

Daniel Kanstroom is a professor of law, Thomas F. Carney Distinguished Scholar, faculty director of the Rappaport Center for Law & Public Policy, director of the International Human Rights Program, and an associate director of the Boston College Center for Human Rights and International Justice. Kanstroom has published widely in the fields of U.S. immigration law, criminal law, and European citizenship and asylum law. His most recent book is Aftermath: Deportation Law and the New American Diaspora, (Oxford University Press, 2012). He is also a co-editor of The New Deportations Delirium (editor, with M. Brinton Lykes) and Constructing “Illegality”: Immigrant Experiences, Critiques, and Resistance, (editor, with Cecilia Menjívar) (Cambridge University Press, 2013). His articles and short pieces have appeared in such venues as the Harvard Law Review, Yale Journal of International Law, UCLA Law Review, NYU Journal of International Law and Politics, Georgetown Immigration Law Journal, The New York Times, Journal of Social History, and the French Gazette du Palais. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Paris, the University of Boulogne sur Mer, Northeastern School of Law, American University, King’s College, London, and Vermont Law School. Kanstroom earned his A.B. from the State University of New York at Binghamton, his J.D. from Northeastern University, and his LL.M. from Harvard University.

hosffman ospino

Hosffman Ospino is associate professor of Hispanic ministry and religious education at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. Ospino earned his M.A. in theology with a concentration in Church History and a Ph.D. in Theology and Education from Boston College. His research interests focus on the conversation between theology and culture and how that conversation influences Catholic catechesis, theological education, and ministry. In 2014 he was the principal investigator for the National Study of Catholic Parishes in the United States and in 2016 was co-principal investigator for the National Survey of Catholic Schools Serving Hispanic Families, the first ever study of its kind. Recent publications include Hispanic Ministry in the Twenty-First Century: Urgent Matters (Convivium Press, 2016), and Hispanic Ministry in Catholic Parishes: A Summary Report of Findings from the National Study of Catholic Parishes with Hispanic Ministry (Our Sunday Visitor Press, 2016).

peter skerry

Peter Skerry is a professor of political science at Boston College and a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, with a research focus on social policy, racial and ethnic politics, and immigration. His writings on politics, racial and ethnic issues, immigration and social policy have appeared in a variety of scholarly and general interest publications, including SocietyPubliusThe Journal of Policy HistoryThe New RepublicSlateThe Public InterestThe Wilson QuarterlyNational ReviewThe New York TimesThe Los Angeles TimesThe Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. His book, Mexican Americans: The Ambivalent Minority (Harvard University Press, 1993), was awarded the 1993 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His most recent book is Counting on the Census? Race, Group Identity, and the Evasion of Politics, (Brookings Institution Press, 2000). His current project is a study of the social, cultural, and political integration of Muslims and Arabs in the United States. Skerry has been a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC, and served as director of Washington Programs for the University of California at Los Angeles’ Center for American Politics and Public Policy, where he also taught political science. He received a B.A. from Tufts Universty and a M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University. 

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Border Ethics flyer.


In his newest documentary entitled, “Border Politics,” barrister Julian Burnside travels the globe to examine the state of human rights protections in the twenty-first century. Grounded in case studies of antiterrorism legislation in Australia and other western countries, he discovers that political leaders are leveraging fears around border policy to augment political power and challenge postwar democratic principles. On Wednesday, September 26th, 2018 the Boisi Center gathered distinguished panelists for a discussion on faith and border ethics.