2014 Koch Lecture: The Politics of Immigration and a Catholic Counternarrative

Document Type


Publication Date



The United States remains the world's leading destination for immigrants, and across new regions, U.S. residents are increasingly confronted with newcomers. In some quarters, reactions reflect the nation's historic openness to immigrants, in others, its deep ambivalence about "outsiders." As immigration debates continue to simmer, the national conversation too often remains characterized by political posturing and fear-based rhetoric that pits the interests of different constituencies against one another. The realities shaping undocumented immigration remain complex, yet the voices of migrants rarely register in national debates about border control policy or work visa quotas. Kristin Heyer, author of Kinship Across Borders: A Christian Ethic of Immigration, will offer an overview of immigration paradigms and explore the resources the Catholic intellectual tradition brings to bear on this pressing moral issue. In contrast to dominant immigration 'scripts' framing the issue in terms of economic instrumentalism or fixed national identity, Catholic commitments shape a different story, a (counter)narrative of our common humanity, our kinship, with implications for a just immigration ethic. Given her expertise in gendered dimensions of immigration rooted in formative experiences with deported women and mixed-status families, Dr. Heyer will highlight the threats particular to migrant women and families as well as their contributions.

Kristin Heyer's Biography

Kristin E. Heyer serves as Bernard J. Hanley Professor of Religious Studies at Santa Clara University. She received her B.A. from Brown University and her Ph.D. in theological ethics from Boston College in 2003. Her books include Kinship Across Borders: A Christian Ethic of Immigration (2012); Prophetic and Public: the Social Witness of U.S. Catholicism (2006), which won the College Theology Society's "Best Book Award," and the edited volumeCatholics and Politics: Dynamic Tensions between Faith and Power (2008), all with Georgetown University Press. Her articles have appeared in Theological Studies, The Journal of Catholic Social Thought, The Journal of Peace and Justice Studies, Political Theology and America. She serves on the boards of Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church and the Seminar on Jesuit Higher Education, and she is an editor for Georgetown University Press' Moral Traditions series.

Streaming Media