Bringing the Voices of Asylum Seekers From Nogales to Washington, D.C.
BY DANIEL MARTINEZ ROMERO | January 12, 2022
Editor’s Note: Daniel Martinez Romero is a student at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, Arizona. In September of 2021, he attended Restore Protections for Holy Families: Prophetic Action to #SaveAsylum, held on the U.S.-Mexico border in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, organized by Kino Border Initiative and co-sponsored by the Ignatian Solidarity Network. He also attended the 2021 Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice in Washington, D.C., including the Vigil to End Title 42, held outside the White House. The following is his reflection on attending both events.During my freshman orientation at Brophy College Preparatory, students are called to “set the world on fire.” Attending the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice (IFTJ) was one milestone in this long journey to reach that goal.
During this school year, I’ve felt a strong calling to do more. My theology classes and the immersion trips Brophy has offered thus far have inspired me to expand my reach. I understand that those who are marginalized are victims of oppression. The more I learn about these issues, the greater my resolve grows.
The climate and immigration justice aspects of IFTJ coincide with my mission in life, due to how close to home they hit. My family is deeply affected, so it feels necessary for me to fight. I first began protesting at the border in Nogales, but I needed to continue to see it through.
It seems as though everyone who spoke at IFTJ was a prophet of God projecting His divine pathos. One of the most impactful speakers was Fr. Bryan Massingale. Hearing him speak resonated with me more than I expected. My key takeaway from him was the word ‘metanoia’. This spiritual conversion is when a part of you dies and rises to a new way of life.
At IFTJ, I felt a similar sensation to what I felt after reading Angie Thomas’ 2017 young adult novel, The Hate U Give. Thomas delineates the endless obstacles established by society to keep people at the bottom of the social hierarchy. The protagonist, Starr, confronts alienation, racism, and subjugation head-on. While disrupting the order, she utilizes her voice as a weapon. This notion of using your voice as a weapon is invaluable.
While I was in Nogales with Kino Border Initiative in September, asylum seekers such as one woman I met, named Karla, were weaponizing their voices and calling for an end to Title 42, the policy being unjustly used to turn asylum seekers away during the pandemic. I couldn’t hold back the tears after listening to all the obstacles meticulously placed in front of my people. The actions of the border patrol are revolting. The sadness and frustration are unbearable. I pictured my sister being one of the children past the metal bars. Immediately, a lump formed in my throat. I couldn’t stand the thought and I knew change was necessary.
Karla and the other asylum seekers hoped and asked that their voices could be heard in Washington D.C. However, at the time, it seemed nearly impossible. I asked myself, “How could I possibly go all the way to D.C. and fulfill their wishes?” At the time, I had absolutely no idea that this would come to fruition. I was able to travel to Washington with Brophy’s IFTJ group two months later.
Everything made sense on the night of the IFTJ Vigil to End Title 42, held outside the White House. A few minutes into the vigil, I was taken aback when I ran into two priests who I had worked with while in Nogales. I had also met other KBI staff members in a break-out room the day before. I hadn’t given it much thought as to why these familiar faces were there. In my mind, it was genuinely just a coincidence. As the vigil went on I could not believe what I was hearing. Everything lined up perfectly. I was in disbelief and looked around at my teachers who were also at the border. It all made sense as to why I was here. I thought back to the border protest and realized that somehow, unbeknownst to me, I accompanied the voices of the immigrants to the center of democracy. I was overjoyed. Although it was a small step toward justice, we fulfilled Karla’s wish. Those at the vigil used their voices to combat the system. It’s something seemingly simple, yet words hold a lot of weight.
I realize that it is impossible to go through life without acknowledging that there are extreme power dynamics. You must have an open mind and heart to accept the reality of injustice. Actively seeking justice and working towards peace requires leaving the status quo behind. My experience at IFTJ exhibited this reality.
I am overwhelmingly honored to have been a part of IFTJ 2021. Witnessing the crisis in Nogales sparked something inside of me. Seeing other young advocates is truly empowering and being a part of something far greater than me makes me hopeful for the future. Ultimately, I left IFTJ with an invigorating passion for advocacy. In 2021, dismantling unjust social structure requires profound awareness. Standing on the sideline may be comfortable, but watching the least neighbor of yours be negatively affected is not comfortable. The people and things we care about must be treated with justice.
Daniel Martinez Romero is a Chicano from a mixed-status family. He is a member of the class of 2023 at Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, Arizona.
Thanks Dan for the moving report and reflection. Dismantling unjust social structure is a mission second to none.
Gracias! In the midst of my- despair about the possibility of change you give me hope.