Latino Immigration: God at the Border

As many community members explain their journey to the United States, their descriptions are wrought with religious language.  Often, congregants allude to their personal relationship with God as they try to make sense of their traumatic border-crossing experiences, drawing upon religion to describe the trials they faced during their migration experience.

"I was scared, more scared then I thought possible. And in this moment I closed my eyes and prayed to God…  Praying, praying and asking God that this would all end.  Within myself, screaming, screaming and praying that they would leave and this would end...  And then they robbed us and they threw us onto the side of the road at 4:30 a.m.  I said thank you to God. Thanks that I was alive.  I thought that they were going to kill me but God didn’t want this."

Without hesitation, this congregant explains her luck as the will of God. Explaining good fortune and misfortune as destiny is not uncommon and exemplifies this woman's complete faith in God’s will as the driving force in her life.  Like her, many worshippers describe their trip across the border as a spiritual encounter with God.  This ability to explain the unknown, to give reason to unreasonable situations, seems to offer some a way to find meaning and purpose in the hardships of their migrations, and the violent and traumatic border-crossings they have experienced.

This personal relationship with God is further evident as a congregant explains how God transformed himself into various guises to help her cross the border and find refuge.

"She [the women who picked me up in the United States] asked me so many questions, my child, but the important part is that she asked me to pray to this image… She said to me ‘pray to this saint right now, pray to this man, he is the lawyer of all immigrants.’  My child, when she showed me the image, and I saw it, who do you think it was?  God can transform himself in a thousand different ways.  It is true.  He can be a child, an animal, or a person. But when I saw this image, it was the same man who helped us in the river...  The man who didn’t want us to pay him anything.  The immigrant’s lawyer.  The one who knew how to guide us…  Thanks to him nothing else happened to us.  He knew how to guide us, bring us to refuge, and then later helped us pass [through the river]."

The language she uses here included her interviewer, who she repeatedly called “my child”, illustrative of the way she interacts with others, viewing their world as a place where all people are brothers and sisters, intrinsically interconnected and influenced by God’s will.1 


  1. Congregant, interviews conducted by Sarah Goldman, May 4, 2014.