'Unlocking Human Dignity': A Theology of Liberation from the Context of US Immigrant Detention and Deportation

Doctoral Dissertation


The dominant political narrative within the United States often portrays the current immigration crisis along the US-Mexico border as one rooted in economic opportunism and criminal activity. In recent years, however, there has been a growing recognition, both domestically and internationally, of the significant levels of violence contributing to this mass human displacement. While a large number of migrants coming from this context have considerable protection needs, they generally do not qualify for protection under the traditional definition of a refugee. Instead, they undergo additional levels of trauma as they are criminalized, detained, and ultimately deported.

In light of the complex challenges posed by global migration and its impact on the human person, this dissertation brings peace studies, Latin American liberation theology, US Hispanic and Latinx theology, and migration theology into conversation, seeking to develop a constructive theology of liberation from the context of US immigrant detention and deportation. While it endeavors to develop a theology of liberation for the victims, it also examines the need for liberation for the perpetrators—for US society and for many in the US Church. Arguing for an expansion of the theological category of ‘the poor’ in light of the realities of displacement, detention, and deportation, I argue for correlating levels of liberation. My thesis is that although liberation in this context must necessarily be understood on structural, political, cultural, and ideological levels, it must also be centrally understood as the reclaiming and ‘unlocking’ of human dignity that has been ‘dimmed and defiled’ through the multi-layered violence found within the US immigration system.


Attribute NameValues
Author Colleen Cross
Contributor Mary Catherine Hilkert, O.P., Research Director
Contributor Robert A. Krieg, Committee Member
Contributor Robert Dowd, C.S.C., Committee Member
Contributor Daniel G. Groody, C.S.C., Research Director
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Theology
Degree Discipline Peace Studies
Degree Name Doctor of Philosophy
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Defense Date
  • 2020-07-10

Submission Date 2020-07-17
Record Visibility Public
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