USC Dornsife College Of Letters Arts and Sciences

University of Southern California

Immigration has made Southern California one of the most diverse parts of the country, making it an ideal place to explore the relationship between religion and the movement of people. Mosques and temples are growing rapidly. Both Catholic shrines for Our Lady of Guadalupe and Pentecostal storefront churches remain popular, even as many second- and third-generation Latinos opt out of religion all together.

Anti-immigrant sentiment often comes from the idea the United States is a “Christian nation.” At the same time, many religious communities have taken a leading role in advocating for immigration reform. Faith-based groups organize marches for immigrants’ rights. Lawyers help refugees win asylum. Congregations offer sanctuary to undocumented families. Religious institutions are often at the center of immigrants’ lives because that is where they can find community and support in their new home.

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“Is Americanization an inevitable influence that needs to be addressed but cannot be changed? Or should Latinas encourage a strong Latino identity among their children as a way of helping them maintain a strong religious identity (or vice versa)? Can Latinos better contribute to U.S. society, if they resist the negative aspects of Americanization?”
—Juan Martinez