Matthew Carnes in front of
Category: Georgetown Faces

Title: Rev. Matthew Carnes, S.J.

My immersion with other Georgetown faculty and staff at the U.S.-Mexico border – organized through the Kino Border Initiative – continues to linger with me. 

The opportunity to speak firsthand with families who daily come to the small comedor facility for meals allowed us to develop relationships with them over our repeated visits. It was perhaps the most profound – both troubling and inspiring – aspect of my experience. 

One couple, both 19 years old, stands out. The two hailed from Nicaragua and had fled after participating in university protests. They reminded me of other student activists that the Center for Latin American Studies has hosted at Georgetown, but there was a glaring difference. The activists visiting Georgetown had been able to successfully negotiate visas to enter the United States. The couple I met were stuck in limbo at the border, not even able to approach a U.S. official until their “number” would be called, likely many months from now. 

The three of us spoke of things minor and mundane, as well as politically and pressing, in their home country. I realized what a massive loss it is for bright students like this couple to leave their college studies and wait, for months or longer, with at best an uncertain hope of asylum.

Later, seeing other stages of the migrant journey – in the desert, in Nogales, at the border wall, and in U.S. criminal court – gave me even more context on the spaces that shaped their lives. But again, there was a difference. I could easily walk across the border, and soon would travel home to Washington, DC. They had no home except the provisional space they inhabited while waiting.