The D.C. Effect

by Fernanda Sandoval, Migration Advocacy Intern

My first visit to Washington D.C. was a short one, three days to be exact. Before arriving, I had settled on a short list of things I needed to see on my trip: visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the National Archives. Little did I know the profound effect visiting these places would have on me.

After a tour of the Holocaust museum, I was led into a small lobby where a poster read: “The next time you witness hatred, the next time you see injustice, think about what you saw.”

Suddenly, I was faced with many emotions all at once. For the longest time, I knew that I wanted to attend law school and pursue studies in philosophy, but it wasn’t until I read this sign that I thought about legal advocacy and politics—which suddenly felt like the most direct way to address injustice in our world.

Growing up in Phoenix, Arizona in a Mexican family, it was easy to notice moments of hatred and injustice around me. When I was younger, my father told me stories of his co-workers who were treated horribly by their employers simply because they were undocumented. Their pay was below minimum wage so they were forced to work an insane number of overtime hours in order to compensate for the money they should have earned.

This discrimination didn’t just happen to my parent’s friends, it happened to my family too. I vividly remember my mom being so upset and unable to voice her concerns when a department store employee accused her of shop lifting. As a ten-year-old, I was panicked at the thought of speaking to the police, but we had no other option since none of the police officers spoke Spanish or even attempted to provide a translator.

After finding nothing that could have possibly been stolen, the worker confessed that she was merely threatened because she “had never seen people like us before.”

These two memories where fresh in my mind when I read the sign in the Holocaust Museum. To add to the fire, I then visited the National Archives Museum. I stood in a paralyzing awe as I read the words on the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

This time, I was not just reminded of my personal hardships but also of all the people around the world that have been stripped of their human rights. In these two moments at each museum, I knew that going to law school and becoming an attorney wasn’t enough. I had always known that I wanted to make a difference in the world, but now I was faced with the question: how?

This lead me to apply for the summer internship at the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach. Through this internship, I have gained a deeper understanding of how faith based advocacy works and a glimpse into a potential future career.

As the migration intern specifically, I have been able to work for change on an issue that is so close to my heart. I have witnessed the incredible work that happens when different organizations across the spectrum work together for the common good.

Weekly Reflections on Justice is produced by the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach staff, volunteers, interns, Columban parishioners, Columban Missionaries, and friends of the Columbans. We hope these reflections help to guide you in your own spiritual journey working toward justice, peace, and the integrity of creation.