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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Immigration and Christian Ethics

Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

border wall

Kristin Heyer
Boston College

Date: Tuesday, April 5, 2016
Time: 12:00-1:15 PM
Location: Boisi Center, 24 Quincy Road

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Abstract: Immigration is often framed in terms of crisis management, rather than by analyzing the economic and political realities that caused it. By scapegoating or focusing on enforcement responses, these underlying and enduring problems are ignored. In the US context in particular, political rhetoric masks complicity, abets human rights violations and betrays the nation’s founding principles. The lenses that shape the immigration debate in the US can distort the realities that migrants face and become surrogates for other cultural and political concerns. Focusing solely on economic or fear-based approaches too often dehumanizes newcomers. In her talk at the Boisi Center, Heyer will explore contributions that Scripture and the Catholic social tradition offer the immigration dialogue. These resources challenge the dominant, instrumentalist frameworks and offer a counter-narrative of civic kinship.


Kristin Heyer is a professor of theology at Boston College. She taught for six years each at Loyola Marymount University and Santa Clara University prior to returning to Boston College in 2015. Her research interests include social ethics, migration ethics and Catholic social thought. Heyer is the author of several books including Conscience and Catholicism: Rights, Responsibilities and Institutional Responses, Kinship Across Borders: A Christian Ethic of Immigration and Catholics and Politics: The Dynamic Tension between Faith and Power. She has also published articles in Theological Studies, Catholic Higher Education and Health Care Ethics USA. Heyer received her AB in history from Brown University and her PhD in theological ethics from Boston College in 2003. 

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Neatly divided along ideological lines, Democratic presidential candidates have pledged support for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, while the leading Republican candidates have opposed any such path and instead favored an increase in border security and deportation. In her upcoming talk at the Boisi Center Kristin Heyer will address how securitization and scapegoating in the United States' immigration debate detracts from addressing the structural economic and political realities that underlie immigration to this country.