Nov. 5 Lecture Series: Oscar Gil-Garcia


Carlos, Evelyn, and their sons. La Gloria, Chiapas, Mexico. Photo credit: Manuel Gil

"Legacies of Forced Migration and Photographic Testimonio of Indigenous Maya in the Americas"


DATE:                 Friday, November 5
TIME:                 4:00-5:00pm
LOCATION:      354 Academic Center

Legacies of Forced Migration and Photographic Testimonio of Indigenous Maya in the Americas, the title of my book, documents how traumatic memories associated with the Guatemalan war (1960-1996) and family separations form part of the everyday violence experienced by Indigenous (Akatek) Maya who must contend with new and old structural dynamics designed to deny Indigeneity a place in Mexico and the United States. This project utilizes ethnography and photography to study the overarching problem of state policies at the border, their corresponding effects on families, and to advance social justice claims for Indigenous Maya.

For my talk, I will elucidate how US immigration policies – limits to legal entry, detention, and deportations – are increasingly deployed at Mexico’s southern border. I will then discuss how these policies increasingly impact mixed-status families that result in the involuntary removal of noncitizen parents who face an impossible choice: deportation without their children or removal of their children from their country of birth. While scholars have begun to identify the number of children, across legal status, impacted by U.S. deportations, few explore the hurdles of deportees and U.S. citizens – especially those of Indigenous descent – who join parents abroad and difficulties they face upon return.

My presentation will highlight this gap and ask: How do bolstered immigration measures throughout Mexico and the U.S. government’s zero tolerance policy affect US citizen children of Indigenous Latin American descent? To answer this question, I document the story of David, a U.S. citizen minor of Indigenous Maya descent who experienced family separation under zero tolerance. I will detail how David and his family attempt to cope throughout his time in multiple foster homes and explain how litigation challenging the separation of families at the border left David in the child welfare system and other families impacted by zero tolerance beyond the reach of the law. I conclude with a discussion of the normalization of legal violence toward migrant families, the impact this has in the deterioration of David’s health, and recommendations that may prevent the onset of slow death among minors who experienced family separations.