Fear, Faith, and Political Participation of Undocumented Americans in Los Angeles & Albuquerque

Authors: Emily Erickson*, UCLA
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Immigration/Transnationalism, Ethnicity and Race
Keywords: immigration, political participation, deportation, geography of fear, religious institutions
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Studio 8, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper identifies the institutional mechanisms that facilitate undocumented immigrant political participation in light of the fear of deportation that shapes everyday life in undocumented America.

Building from Verba, Schlozman and Brady’s (1993) work identifying the primary political activity-enhancing factors and the role of religious institutions in supporting these activity-enhancing factors (Jones-Correa and Leal 2001, Heredia 2011), this paper explores two Catholic parishes’ facilitation of political participation among undocumented immigrants within their communities with particular focus on addressing fear of deportation.

To live in the United States as an undocumented immigrant entails coping with the everyday stress, anxiety, and restricted mobility related to fear of deportation and family separation. Despite this fear, many within undocumented communities in Los Angeles and Albuquerque have taken to the streets and demanded immigration reform, economic justice, and made their voice heard on a variety of social issues.

Using interview and ethnographic data from a comparative case study of two Catholic parishes in Los Angeles and Albuquerque, this paper presents a theory of the institutional mechanisms at play in facilitating undocumented political participation, including: (1) the decoupling of legal status with identity in religious institutions; (2) the role of religious institutions in creating opportunities for political participation; and (3) the role of faith in overcoming and managing geographies of deportation fear. The paper concludes with a discussion on the replicability of these mechanisms outside of religious institutions.

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