“It’s Sacbe: it means a path where you never walk alone.”
“And that’s what your story is going to be about?”
“Yes, because I want undocumented immigrants to know they don’t have to walk through this journey alone. I’ll walk with them.”
Andrea has become one of my best friends in the past year and is a board leader in Youth Educating Society, YES, a group I manage. We’re sitting in a coffee shop at Xavier University. She’s trying to explain to me why it’s so important to her to fight for a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in this country. Andrea explained to me that Sacbe was a white, Mayan road that connected villages and temples. On this road, people would walk together in peace. “The important thing about Sacbe is that you’re never alone. No matter what hardship you face in your journey, someone is right beside you. That’s why I do it José. I want them to know I’m fighting alongside them, regardless of the battles they must overcome.” When I heard Andrea tell me all of this, I couldn’t help feeling the goosebumps tingling my arms.When I read today’s Gospel, I understand it as the Golden Rule: treat others as you wish for them to treat you.
I’ve been an immigration reform activist since I was 14 years old, and during these years I had the amazing pleasure of meeting people who have devoted their lives to living in solidarity with undocumented immigrants.
Today, it seems we are talking more and more about what it means to be in solidarity with those who are marginalized in our community. The more these conversations happen, the more I seem to notice that I am usually the only undocumented individual or DACA recipient in the room. I end up finding myself as the voice of the undocumented community, and because of my work as an activist, my answer is always to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform. While advocacy is INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT and WE MUST KEEP DOING IT, it isn’t necessarily Sacbe.
On many occasions, when people look at undocumented immigrants, or refugees, there is still a wall between them where people look to their experience and think, “oh, let me hear about you crossing the border, or escaping the terrible situation you were living in so I can be in solidarity with you.”
After a while, it becomes a process where two parties gather the information they need, but never actually build a relationship.
Instead, why don’t we try to befriend one another?
Ask a DACA recipient about their favorite movie, their favorite color, their favorite sport to watch, or whatever you’d like.
See migrants with the intention of making a friend, not just learning from their experience.
Don’t worry, you still get their experience, but it’ll be raw. In doing this, you’re becoming equal to them and the friendship becomes mutual. You’ll have the potential to make a lifelong friend and walk with others, like on a Sacbe.
José Arnulfo Cabrera is the director of education and advocacy for migration for the Ignatian Solidarity Network. He is a 2018 graduate of Xavier University, a DACA recipient, and an immigration activist. He previously worked with the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he provided training on lobbying, organizing, and immigration policy, as well as shared his own immigration story, and as a government relations associate with NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice in Washington, D.C.