A dozen Notre Dame students and two alumni traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border in October as part of a social justice trip sponsored by the Institute for Latino Studies and the Latinx Catholic Leadership Coalition. This Latinx Catholic Leadership Coalition was born from lay and ministry leaders who participated in the National Symposium on Catholic Hispanic Ministry. These lay leaders wanted to visit the border to see first hand what recent immigration rhetoric and policy actually looks and feels like through a teach-in for college students of Catholic universities and socially concerned Catholic leaders from across the nation.
The Teach-In 2019: Jornada por la Justicia, or Pilgrimage for Justice, was a three-day gathering in El Paso, Texas of over 400 Catholic youth and parent organizers, labor leaders, scholars, activists and students eager to understand and see first-hand, the impact of recent attacks on Latinx people. The recent massacre that occurred in a Walmart parking lot in August was just steps away from the educational facility where the Teach-In was held.
Notre Dame alumnus and former Hispanic Alumnae Marisa Limón Garza served as co-director of the Teach-In in her role as Deputy Director of the HOPE Border Institute, the group behind the event. She said she felt “complete joy” at seeing Domers participate in the gathering.
“Their power and energy made profound contributions to the convening and made me proud to continue together in the fight for justice," Limón Garza said.
ILS Director Dr. Luis Fraga was one of the keynote speakers at the event. For him, it was important to more directly engage with the migrant crisis at the border and “build community” with immigrants and those trying to help them.
“It was a life changing event,” Fraga said.“To see and feel their hope for a better life, willingness to sacrifice, and capacity to maintain an ever-present faith in God's guidance -- these migrants taught us how to live the Gospel and work to do God's will on earth.”
Hibram Sanchez, a Notre Dame senior majoring in PLS and Italian, said the trip opened his eyes to what he called a “hierarchy of lives”, with White American lives being more important than those of Brown immigrants from Central America and Mexico.
After graduation, Sanchez is poised to become a teacher at a Catholic school through the ACE program at Notre Dame. However, the trip has inspired him to enter the political arena somewhere down the line.
“It allowed me to understand my difference as a person of color and the son of immigrants,” Sanchez said. “How can we have our American ideals apply to these marginalized people too?”
The gathering ran from October 11th to October 13th and featured workshops, leadership tools, strategy sessions, and networking opportunities. Participants also met with migrants at the border applying for asylum. ILS sponsored 15 students to attend the teach-in, which was organized by the HOPE Border Institute and the Latinx Catholic Leadership Coalition and supported by the Coalition for Spiritual and Public Leadership in Chicago.
HOPE is an independent Catholic organization that uses research, policy work, and activism to bear on the realities of the US-Mexico border through a Catholic social teaching lens.