Kinship Across Borders

A Christian Ethic of Immigration

Kristin E. Heyer

"Readers will find this text valuable in helping inform their understanding of immigration and Christian social ethics and rooting it deeply in human dignity and the broader Catholic social teaching tradition."
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The failure of current immigration policies in the United States has resulted in dire consequences: a significant increase in border deaths, a proliferation of smuggling networks, prolonged family separation, inhumane raids, a patchwork of local ordinances criminalizing activities of immigrants and those who harbor them, and the creation of an underclass—none of which are appropriate or just outcomes for those holding Christian commitments.

Kinship Across Borders analyzes contemporary US immigration in the context of fundamental Christian beliefs about the human person, sin, family life, and global solidarity. Kristin Heyer expertly demonstrates how current US immigration policies reflect harmful neoliberal economic priorities, and why immigration cannot be reduced to security or legal issues alone. Rather, she explains that immigration involves a broad array of economic issues, trade policies, concerns of cultural tolerance and criminal justice, and, at root, an understanding of the human person.

In Kinship Across Borders, Heyer has developed a Christian immigration ethic—grounded in scriptural, anthropological, and social teachings and rooted in the experiences of undocumented migrants—that calls society to promote concrete practices and policies reflecting justice and solidarity.

Table of Contents


1. Christian Anthropology and the De-humanization of Immigrants

2. Social Sin and Inhospitality to Immigrants

3. Domestic Church and Threats Facing Immigrant Families

4. Global Solidarity and the Immigration Paradigm

5. Civic Kinship and Subversive Hospitality: A Christian Immigration Ethic




"Kinship Across Borders is a necessary text for university libraries that maintain collections in Theology, Politics, Law or Philosophy. It should be read by anyone interested in finding solutions to the immigration problems we all face today."—Catholic Library World

"Enables new understandings of the human person threatened and renewed, and . . . reveals threats to family and civic bonds while pointing to how those bonds may be strengthened"—Robert Heimburger, Modern Theology

"Kinship Across Borders presents a powerful analysis of the injustice of the current immigration system and an engaging alternative based on human solidarity and Christian commitment. It will inspire action that can make a difference."—David Hollenbach, SJ, University Chair in Human Rights and International Justice, Boston College

"This extraordinary book convincingly demonstrates how and why what appear on the surface as fundamentally social or economic issues are profoundly theological, reflecting basic presuppositions about who God is and who we are. Heyer has thus provided us with the kind of scholarly yet accessible 'theology of immigration' so desperately needed in our debates on immigration policy."—Roberto Goizueta, Margaret O'Brien Flatley Professor of Catholic Theology, Boston College

"This is a timely and creative work that re-frames the topic of immigration for US Christians and challenges us to a new ethic of responsible global citizenship, one that does more than lip-service to 'family values'. Impressive for its interdisciplinary scholarship, powerful stories, and clear argumentation, Kinship across Borders will prove useful for a wide readership, including politicians, pastoral workers, and students and professionals in the field of theological ethics."—Anne Patrick, William H. Laird Professor of Religion and the Liberal Arts, emerita, Carleton College

"Thousands die on our borders and many within the church remain silent. But as Heyer demonstrates in her well thought-out book, Kinship across Borders, these dying strangers are kinfolk, not some dehumanized immigrant. Her important contribution to the immigration discourse provides us with a well-grounded theological and ethical analysis to what has become the greatest human rights violation presently occurring within US borders."—Miguel A. De La Torre, Iliff School of Theology

"In an immigration debate dominated by economic and utilitarian approaches, Heyer’s brilliant work opens up the ethical terrain and reminds us that what we need is not only more information but a new imagination. As she looks at the human costs of the migrant in light of the Christian tradition, she calls us to examine not only how people cross political borders but also how they might cross the walls and barriers that exists in the human heart."—Daniel G. Groody, CSC, associate professor of theology, University of Notre Dame

"Readers will find this text valuable in helping inform their understanding of immigration and Christian social ethics and rooting it deeply in human dignity and the broader Catholic social teaching tradition."—Journal of Religion, 2020


Supplemental Materials


2013 Catholic Press Association Book Award for Catholic Social Teaching, Third Place

About the Author

Kristin E. Heyer is Bernard J. Hanley Professor of Religious Studies at Santa Clara University. She is the author of Prophetic and Public: The Social Witness of US Catholicism, which won the College Theology Society’s Best Book Award, and coeditor of Catholics and Politics: Dynamic Tensions between Faith and Power.

208 pp., 6 x 9

Oct 2012

208 pp., 6 x 9

ISBN: 978-1-58901-930-0
Oct 2012

208 pp.

ISBN: 978-1-58901-931-7
Oct 2012

Moral Traditions series
David Cloutier, Darlene Weaver, and Andrea Vicini, SJ

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