Director of Campaigns and Mobilizing

Sandy Ovalle is a native of Mexico City, a city dweller, and a people-loving bailarina. She loves writing poetry, gathering people around homemade pozole, and thinking about the complexities of living between worlds as an immigrant Latina. She holds an M.A. in theology from Fuller Theological Seminary and serves as the director of campaigns and mobilizing. Sandy leads the SojoAction team, which is building a community dedicated to putting its faith in action for social justice. Together they develop the tools and training needed to activate communities and nourish them for this moment. Sandy came to Washington, D.C., at the end of 2018. She worked in immigration advocacy and church mobilization in Southern California and has been involved in campus ministry among Latinx college students in Texas and California.

Posts By This Author

A Liturgy for Celebrating the Holidays Apart from Loved Ones

by Sandy Ovalle 11-24-2020

Photo by Josh Boot on Unsplash

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend celebrating the holidays only  with the people you live with. In this recommendation, I hear a resigned invitation to make it work with what we have. Let us draw lessons from those who have long had to make it work. And in that, I offer a prayer.

Who Gets a Vote in God's Beloved Community?

by Sandy Ovalle 10-15-2020

Voters on presidential election day in 2016 in Arlington, Va. Photo by Rob Crandal / Shutterstock.com.

Immigration is never out of sight for those whose lives depend on it, even while it may have not been a topic of choice for presidential and vice-presidential debates this year. Candidates and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have used the stories and experiences of immigrant people for political gain. But for many immigrant people, engaging in the larger immigration discourse and advocacy work is primarily about our families and our communities: their present reality and their future opportunities. It is not about touting a “welcoming” nature or defending a seemingly attacked territory or national identity as politicians and others have often approached it.

Racist Immigration Narratives Lead to Racist Laws

by Sandy Ovalle 07-21-2020
The DACA decision was a temporary victory, but it does not dismantle the massive deportation machine.

Illustration by Michael George Haddad

IN JUNE, NEARLY 700,000 DACA recipients could breathe a sigh of relief when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Trump administration’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The court determined that the basis for President Trump’s action was “arbitrary and capricious.” The grounds presented for termination failed to consider the impact of the program’s rescission, wrote Chief Justice John Roberts.

The grounds of the ruling are important because the court did not address whether DACA was legal. For now, DACA remains fragile. People who have benefited from the program, put in place by executive action under President Barack Obama in 2012, can continue to obtain valid work permits and are protected from deportation.  An estimated 130,000 people would have been eligible to submit new applications for the program, except that the Trump administration released a memo on July 28 saying it would “reject all initial requests for DACA and associated applications for Employment Authorization Documents.”

This momentary reprieve and upsurge of hope resulted from decades of fierce social, political, and legal organizing by undocumented youth and their supporters, often at great personal risk. The Trump administration may decide to attack DACA again. It would likely be a costly undertaking since a substantial bipartisan majority of Americans support DACA.

While DACA prevents the eviction from the U.S. of a sector of immigrants, it does not dismantle the massive deportation machine that operates in this country nor create a pathway to citizenship—key components of comprehensive immigration reform. Authentic immigration reform begins with the recognition that U.S. immigration laws, from their inception, have been informed by discriminatory narratives. The first immigration law, the Naturalization Act of 1790, made it possible for those born elsewhere to become citizens—but only if they were “free white persons” (“white” meaning certain Europeans, and “persons” essentially meaning men), excluding enslaved people, Native Americans, those without property, most women, and all others not defined as white. Only property-owning white male citizens could vote.

Savor and Strategize: The SCOTUS Decision to Protect DACA

by Jim Wallis, by Sandy Ovalle 06-25-2020

DACA recipient Luz Chavez celebrates outside the U.S. Supreme Court after the court ruled in a 5-4 vote that President Donald Trump's 2017 move to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was unlawful. Washington, D.C., June 18, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Even as we allow ourselves to savor this victory and be lifted by the hope of this moment, we also need to prepare and strategize for what’s next, because the fight for immigration justice is far from over. The justices of the Supreme Court did not rule on the merits of whether Trump is allowed to end DACA — but rather on the way in which he attempted to do so.

The Rest Is Only Temporary

by Sandy Ovalle 06-22-2020

Image via REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Immigrants have been willing to carry these oppressive burdens because there are no other options to make a way for our status in the system. The mantras playing in our head are the horrific echoes of a system that values immigrant people because of their economic contribution and slowly takes away their breath in favor of building an empire.

'Threats of Annihilation Live in Our Bones': The Enduring Resilience of Latinx Communities

by Sandy Ovalle 08-08-2019

Image via REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

Some Latinx people have known — and others have suspected — this land is not safe for us, but the extent to which that suspicion has been confirmed in El Paso is terrifying. The perpetrator in this massacre was deliberate in his plan to counter the “Hispanic invasion.” It’s tempting to believe all this has been incited by the current president’s violent rhetoric. But while that rhetoric has added much fuel to the fire, the fire has been burning for a long time. 

Immigrants Across the Country Are Using Hunger Strikes to Protest Inhumane Detention

by Sandy Ovalle, by Helen Salita 05-20-2019

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) temporary facilities for housing migrants are seen in Donna, Texas, U.S., May 15, 2019. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

Hunger strikes allow detained immigrants to regain their agency while simultaneously throwing themselves on the mercy of the very institution that has oppressed them.

29 Parents of Separated Children Allowed to Cross Border, Seek Asylum

by Sandy Ovalle 03-04-2019

Families gather on benches outside the port of entry. Photo by Sandy Ovalle / Sojourners

Luisa bought a ring for her daughter Katherine’s quince. She hopes to give it to her in a few months on her 15th birthday. But just in case she is not able to do so, she mailed it ahead of time to friends in the U.S. The two were separated on Christmas Day 2017 at the U.S.-Mexico border.

A Pilgrim's Journey

by Sandy Ovalle, by Kayla Lattimore 12-12-2018

Migrant people hold the now and the not yet in tension. In the midst of waiting to make it up north and taking their turn for a credible fear interview at the border, life continues. People find ways to feel alive, to keep hope alive. At La Casa del Peregrino, holding on to hope looked like doing karaoke, coloring banners, and making beaded bracelets. They were not devoid of life.

Fear Is Not a Faithful Response to Those Seeking Asylum

by Sandy Ovalle 10-31-2018

Migrant from Honduras carries daughter amid a caravan from Central America en route to the U.S. Image via Reuters/Adrees Latif

Requesting asylum by presenting at a point of entry is the legal way to seek protection; it's not an assault on this country. To "other" brown-bodied people is destructive, especially if they’re in vulnerable situations, because it creates categories that automatically view some as superior. This has been the basis for many of the world’s greatest tragedies. Fear is the basis of all of these accusations.