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May 6, 2022

Georgetown Americas Institute and Americas Forum Conclude the Crossing Borders Series

The Georgetown Americas Institute (GAI) and the Georgetown College Americas Forum concluded “Crossing Borders: Leaving Home, Making New Lives, Sustaining Communities,” a series focusing on migrants’ efforts to form new communities in the United States while wrestling with issues of identity and human rights.

First Row: John Tutino, George Sánchez. Second Row: Mike Amezcua, Marcia Chatelain
First Row: John Tutino, George Sánchez. Second Row: Mike Amezcua, Marcia Chatelain

Making Mexican Los Angeles

On March 28, 2022, Americas Forum Director John Tutino moderated a presentation by George J. Sánchez, professor at the University of Southern California. Sánchez shared the story of Homeboy Industries and the Mothers of East Los Angeles (MELA), both community-based organizations that fought against the discrimination suffered by new migrants in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, via neighborhood empowerment.

“The cities and neighborhoods east and south of downtown Los Angeles became magnets for undocumented immigrants because of the low-wage job opportunities available in this re industrialized area,” he said.

During the 1980s, Father Gregory Boyle, S.J., a local priest, opened the Dolores Mission Alternative to serve at-risk youth and provide an alternative employment program for former gang members. Sánchez explained that all of this would serve as the infrastructure for Homeboy Industries, now a prominent rehabilitation program in Boyle Heights.

“There is no way that U.S.-born and foreign-born Latinos would have joined together in the massive protest against anti-immigrant legislation that we saw in the early twenty-first century had it not been for the activist incorporation of the undocumented in grassroots non-electoral politics of the 1980s and 1990s.”

Making Mexican Chicago

On April 4, 2022, Georgetown professor Marcia Chatelain moderated a discussion with colleague Mike Amezcua, an assistant professor at Georgetown. Amezcua provided an overview of his newest book on the impact of federal policies of urban renewal and mass deportation on Mexican immigrants and Mexican Americans in Chicago after the early 1960s.

“The twin projects of demolition through urban renewal and deportation through programs like Operation Wetback of 1954 were happening in the very same urban spaces at the same time in Chicago,” he said.

By the 1970s, African American and Mexican American youth of the near West side of Chicago began to mobilize in order to resist the redlining policies of city planners.

According to Amezcua, “the momentum behind the fight for self-determination and the cultural nationalism of the Chicano Movement gave Mexican American youth in Chicago a sense of pride and an impetus to turn the local community assets into Chicano-liberated spaces.”

First Row: Francisco Jiménez, Tomás Jiménez. Second Row: Marcella Hardin, Martha Daniela Guerrero
First Row: Francisco Jiménez, Tomás Jiménez. Second Row: Marcella Hardin, Martha Daniela Guerrero

Making Mexican America

On April 20, 2022, Center for Latin American Studies Director Rev. Matthew Carnes, S.J., moderated a conversation with the father-son duo of Francisco Jiménez, professor emeritus at Santa Clara University, and Tomás Jiménez, professor at Stanford University. Francisco related his story of migrating from Mexico to California, with a focus on the formation of Mexican American identity.

“The reason why I chose to write my first autobiographical book was to give an insight into what life is like for immigrant parents and their children.”

Tomás shared how he dealt with the challenges of being an undocumented student and echoed the importance of conveying history through stories.

“It is important for people to tell these stories because when we tell our stories we make connections,” he reflected. “We then begin to break those walls that separate us with one another, and we can rejoice and take comfort in the fact that we are all members of the same family.”

Undocumented Deliverance in New York City

On April 25, 2022, Martha Daniela Guerrero (G’20)a Mexican journalist and historian, gave a presentation on the Deliveristas Unidos and Excluded Workers Coalition, two migrant labor movements based in New York City. Marcella Hardin, a doctoral student in the Department of History at Georgetown, served as moderator. Guerrero highlighted how the COVID-19 pandemic sparked increased activism by migrant workers.

“These two labor-centered campaigns developed during the COVID-19 health emergency, which was a period that both visualized New York City’s growing reliance on migrant labor as well as the utter precarity faced by urban and undocumented communities.”

The Deliveristas Unidos, created by mostly indigenous Central American and Mexican-based delivery workers, successfully organized in 2021 for local legislation regulating New York City’s technology delivery industry. The Excluded Workers Coalition successfully lobbied for a $2.1 billion pandemic relief fund for undocumented workers in April 2021 via a hunger strike involving 85 migrant workers.

The Crossing Borders series was hosted by the Georgetown College Americas Forum and co-sponsored by the Georgetown Americas Institute.

Read the feature story summarizing the first part of this series.