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Places of Sanctuary: Religious Revivalism and the Politics of Immigration in New Mexico


This dissertation examines the overlapping dimensions of secular and religious sanctuary place making by comparing the faith-based Sanctuary Movement(s) of the 1980s with the rise of present-day local immigration policy activism in New Mexico and beyond. Placing immigrant rights activism alongside religious revivalism, I also examine how the contemporary immigrant rights movement intersects with Renovación Carismática, a transnational Catholic charismatic renewal movement that originated in Chihuahua, México, and is growing in popularity among Mexican immigrants in northern New Mexico and many other states in the Southwestern vicinity. Mexican migrants' participation in both movements cultivates "communities of protection" that blur the lines between sacred and secular spaces, while also crossing ideological boundaries that separate legislating from evangelizing and legality from theology. Bringing different sites and configurations of sanctuary place making together in a historically contingent and comparative analysis, this research illuminates how new religious and political subjectivities are made in a changing post-migration landscape.

This dissertation contributes to studies of immigration, religion, and social movements incorporating both historical and ethnographic methods and analysis of diverse sets of data including archival materials, oral history interviews, and contemporary ethnography. The first part of this dissertation is historical and traces the life of New Mexico's controversial sanctuary state declaration as a political theology that produced unexpected social and legal effects. I use the document to reconstruct a history of the sanctuary movement in the tri-state region and to narrate the events that led up to the dramatic 1988 Sanctuary Trial that defined the movement in New Mexico. Connecting the Sanctuary Movement(s) of the past with contemporary local immigration policy activism, the second part of this study focuses on the work of Somos Un Pueblo Unido, the leading immigrant rights organization in the state. Illuminating the interactivity between the immigrant rights movement and Renovación Carismática in the 2011 legislative battle over immigrant drivers' licenses, I show how the document became a "vibrant object," that materialized immigrants' local citizenship and legitimacy of presence. Finally, I uncover the transborder mobilities and secular and religious innovations of the charismatic movement through the migration experiences of a family of talented lay preachers and musicians from Cuauhtémoc, Chihuahua who brought borderlands charisma to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Santa Fe and reignited the spirit of renewal.

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