Before interning with the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach (CCAO) in early 2018, I saw the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (or, DACA) program through different eyes. I blinded myself to the realities Dreamers face, buying into the rhetoric that paints DACA as a way to protect lawbreakers. Looking back, I am ashamed.
However, my eyes were opened by working on immigration advocacy with CCAO. I finally learned and accepted the truth about DACA. I learned to swallow the pride that robbed me of a compassionate heart, to put party and ideological affiliations aside to see others as children of God first.
February 2018, as I stood on Capitol Hill lawn with CCAO, God touched my heart and removed my blindfold, forever changing my story. We were there that morning as part of a prayer vigil for Dreamers. Holding a sign with the words “Justicia para los Dreamers” (Justice for Dreamers), I prayed beneath the gaze of Lady Freedom. At the foot of the US Capitol Building, I was so close yet felt so far from the politicians I urgently needed to reach. Standing in solidarity with Dreamers and fellow advocates for the continuation of the DACA, I prayed.
I prayed that those brought to the US as children would not face the cruel realities of deportation.
My prayer, a plea to God, was also a plea to politicians, a desperate plea.
In this moment, amid chanting of hymns, I saw a community standing together in support of justice and human rights. I did not see Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals, Libertarians or independents. I saw human beings, human beings who cared about undocumented immigrants because they too are human, regardless of how they came to call the US home.
That morning, I was empowered to extend my compassion to Dreamers, too advocate for their protection. In fact, my experience with DACA advocacy was so profound that it changed my worldview. It changed my life. I am currently in my first semester of a Master’s program in social justice and human rights, a program I had never considered before my experience with CCAO.
Before that February morning, others tried to tell me, to enlighten me, but I didn’t listen. I had to learn on my own. In my experience, there are two ways to learn, either from personal experience or by hearing other peoples' stories. Though the first path is often more profound, it can also be more painful.
My prayer today is that others can learn from my experience, from my story—to open their eyes and soften their hearts to recognize all of God's children as their brothers and sisters.
Emily Delvecchio is a former Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach (CCAO) intern, where she advocated for migrant justice and implemented an online, educational campaign about extractive industries. She is now pursuing a Master’s degree in social justice and human rights.
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