By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
SPRINGFIELD, Ky. — Mirna Lozano processed into St. Dominic Church Oct. 29 carrying the lectionary during the parish’s first young adult Mass, which she organized with the help of her father Rodrigo Lozano.
The father-daughter duo both recently earned certification in youth ministry through the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Youth and Young Adults. They hope to see youth ministry grow at St. Dominic.
But Mirna’ Lozano’s future in Springfield is uncertain now. The 19-year-old native of Mexico was brought to the United States without proper documentation when she was 4-years-old. The U.S. is the only home she knows.
For now, she’s protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. President Donald Trump’s decision to cancel the program — which protects 800,000 young people from deportation — leaves her future uncertain. What’s most certain for Mirna Lozano — and other young Hispanics like her — is fear. These young people, known as
“dreamers,” are afraid they’ll have to give up their lives in the U.S. and be forced to return to
countries they barely remember.
Mirna Lozano, who hopes to be a teacher and youth minister, said she feels her future lies in the hands of the federal government, with which she voluntarily registered.
“This is our country. This is all we know,” she said during an interview at her parish.
Mirna Lozano, her father and a group of six other young people, including her younger sister Dora Lozano, shared their journeys after a young adult Mass at St. Dominic Oct. 29.
‘It’s every parents’ dream.’
Rodrigo Lozano, father of Mirna and Dora, said the Lozano family moved to the U.S. some 15 years ago, trading the suffocating violence of Mexico City for the sleepy rural community of Springfield. Mirna was 4 and Dora only 3.
He came looking, he said, for a “better life,” a “more peaceful life” for his family. “It’s every parents’ dream,” he said.
Despite a tough economy in Mexico, he had managed to hold a decent job, but Mexico City had become inundated with violence, he said. After being assaulted at gunpoint a number of times, he felt he had no choice but to leave his homeland. Traveling to the U.S. undocumented is a big decision because it’s dangerous, he noted.
Rodrigo Lozano said he initially traveled to the U.S. alone to prepare a life for his family. His wife and two daughters came about a year later.
When he arrived, he didn’t speak English, had nowhere to live and no clothes to wear. But he found work on farms and sometimes cleaned streets.
“You don’t care how much you’re paid, you just want to work,” he said, adding that he has no regrets.
Since moving to Springfield, Rodrigo Lozano and his family — which includes a son born in the U.S. — have found a home in St. Dominic Church, where they are active parishioners.
Despite the threat of possible deportation looming large, Mirna Lozano keeps looking forward. She and her father are looking forward to using their youth ministry certificates. They’re currently forming a multi-ethnic youth group at the parish.
Mirna Lozano is also active in the community, helping other young people understand their options for higher education, despite their legal status, she said. Undocumented young people, even those protected by DACA, do not qualify for federal student aid.
She hopes to foster unity and a better understanding between the Hispanic community and the larger community in Springfield, she said.
‘Striving for a better life’
DACA is not just a political issue, she noted. It’s about people “striving for a better life.” She wants to help others understand that.
Mirna Lozano hopes that Congress will pass the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would provide a path to legalization for young people like her, she said. The bipartisan measure, the origin of the term “dreamers,” failed repeatedly in Congress. With the cancellation of DACA, President Trump has asked lawmakers to once again address the situation of “dreamers.”
Mirna Lozano also hopes that eventually there will be a path to legalization for the parents of “dreamers.”
Since the president’s decision to cancel DACA, she’s felt the Catholic Church’s presence and support, she added. It has helped her feel safe, she said.
‘They’re just as much our young people as any other in our parish.’
Father Pepper Elliott, who celebrates Mass in Spanish for the Hispanic community at St. Dominic Church, said it would be a tragedy to lose the “dreamers” at St. Dominic.
“They’re just as much our young people as any other in our parish and they’re just as close to our hearts,” said Father Elliott during an interview Oct. 31.
They’ve grown up in the community, some attended St. Dominic School, he noted. They’re now of college and working age and contributing members of the community and of the church.
Father Elliott noted Mirna Lozano’s contribution to the parish. He pointed out that she and her father organized the parish’s first young adult Mass and that they earned youth ministry certificates.
Father Elliott also noted that Mirna Lozano has always demonstrated leadership skills. She graduated from Bethlehem High School in Bardstown, Ky., where she was elected president of her senior class, he said.
The vast majority of dreamers are working and paying taxes, said Father Elliott. They’re helping to pay for housing and utilities, buying necessities, such as clothing and cars. The economic bottom line is that they are helping to create jobs in their communities, said Father Elliott. An even more valuable contribution, he noted, is what they add to the community through their family life and values.