I’ve found that now, after nearly two years in my job as an immigration counselor, I rarely break down. Not often do I cry, nor even feel the inclination to cry. I’ve hardened, as they say. I’m nearly immune to the hardships my clients face every day as migrants. Because this is easier. I’m able to proceed day to day with a lighter step, with a calmer, level headed approach to my work, because of the shield I carry. This shield is built from the many stories my clients have relayed of atrocities and injustices I will never and can never completely comprehend. And I’ve managed to convince myself that I can only be a warrior for them if this shield remains strong and intact. But every once in awhile, someone comes along that brings this shield down with them, and I am made better for it.
I see many clients. As an employee at a non-profit in one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the country—Sunnyside, Queens—my organization offers services to a multitude of migrants from across the world. Today, when my client and her father came in to complete her forms, nothing about the interaction seemed particularly significant. The father and daughter exist in a fairly typical mixed-status family: some of the children are U.S.-born citizens, some of the children have DACA, and the parents are undocumented. But in this appointment, the daughter fiercely relayed how frustrated she was with having DACA. Why would she renew her DACA and pay a considerable fee, a substantial amount of money, for just two more years of authorization? Why do it at all with the uncertainty of the program? She said, angrily, that she felt no hope. But her father felt otherwise.
He looked me straight in the eyes as I tried my best to promote optimism and emote strength and said, “My hope is in God. I know His love to be the greatest love of all. And with His love, we will be ok. And I feel His presence with you.” The shield evaporated, and I felt Him too. In this space, we are not different. We are not separate. This father, who is completely vulnerable to the government of the United States, knows this. He knows this love, too. He knows that Christ is all and in all. It’s jarring, really, to see Jesus in such a direct manner. Often, I’m searching for Him in small moments, trying to make the most of menial events. But this took me aback. And so later, I cried. God took my shield, presenting me so directly with the love for and of His people, and I cried. And I am reminded of my resounding faith. My hope is renewed, too, because this father, more than anything, believes in the kingdom of heaven. Beyond all of his trials and tribulations, he believes in the unrelenting love of the Lord—so we may rise.
Caitlin Wright considers herself an aficionado for all things Jesuit. After graduating from Creighton University (Go Jays!) in 2017 with a degree in English, Spanish, and Legal Studies, Caitlin completed a year of service with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Brooklyn, NY. She continues to reside in Brooklyn and works as an immigration counselor at Catholic Migration Services, a not-for-profit organization that provides legal aid to migrants in Brooklyn and Queens. In her free time, Caitlin enjoys going to Broadway shows, singing with the schola at the Church of St. Francis Xavier, and finding the best bagels New York has to offer.