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Should We Dump Them on the Street?

Since 1980 Casa Juan Diego has received thousands of refugees, Spanish speaking battered women and children. It has been the Inn to many homeless pregnant women.

It is Saturday morning.

There is much to do.

Martha, a battered woman, abruptly interrupts our work with a visiting volunteer youth group from a local parish to insist that she go to visit her newborn at LBJ County hospital. Concern is written all over her face. The hospital had sent her home without the baby because the newborn had respiratory problems.

So we (Louise and Mark) decide we should take her to see her baby–a mother separated from her newborn suffers pain of birth all over again in her empty arms.

Besides, either Erika, Sue, Mary or Myla could entertain the youth group with projects as well as we could.

And besides, we (Louise and Mark) need some time to talk to each other–a precious item in the midst of all this.

As we are driving to LBJ Hospital, it dawns on us–like a bolt out of the blue–like Paul being struck off his horse.

Is Martha legal?

Are we transporting an “illegal alien?” (We received unsigned letters attacking us for helping “illegals.” We don’t believe any person can be “illegal”–they may be undocumented.)

Are we breaking the law?

What should we do? Should we put Martha out of the car immediately–right there on 59 North on this overpass and not break the law another second? And should we rush over to a nearby church and go to confession–and how do you confess such a sin, since it is no sin in any examination of conscience books that we know of:

Bless me Father, for I have sinned. I have harbored and transported an illegal alien?

What would the priest say?

He would probably say, “My child, our Holy Bible says that we should welcome the stranger–so go and sin no more.” (Or: “If you have trouble, bring her to our sanctuary”).

Or he might say: “The Pope is going to be very angry at you (the Zwicks) for even doubting that you should help this poor mother. Are you some kind of nut–or even a heretic to challenge Catholic teaching and the Pope? Do you want to be excommunicated for not carrying out Catholic teaching about helping refugees?”

Why us, Lord?

We continue on our way and decide not to dump Marta, but we still have questions. Why did LBJ Hospital insist that we accept this mother? Are they trying to get us into trouble? Should we have accepted her only because no one else in all of Harris County would accept her? No one ever told us that pro life work should exclude “illegal aliens.”

No Way, José

Poor José. He was really poor!

We received this call yesterday from the San José clinic to say that José, 16 years old, had a serious infection, but his only home was under a bridge. Would we house him, since he was undocumented?

Of course. What right does José have to live under a bridge anyway? It’s federal property.

But why did Dr. Connally sent him to us? Is she trying to get us into trouble?

Or does she also believe in helping the stranger in a foreign land? Betcha she goes to confession to the same priest we do! That priest is causing a lot of work.

Poor Pedro

And the day before yesterday we visited Pedro at Herman Hospital. He is an immigrant from Honduras.

Pedro was gunned down several months ago–shot in the back. Now he is lying paralyzed and helpless in Hermann Hospital. He has no life, no control from his navel down.

Pedro doesn’t want to live anymore.

No one wants to take Pedro home.

So we get this barrage of calls from Pedro’s church (Mormon), Pedro’s friends, the hospital social worker: please take Pedro.

We really enjoyed this popularity. Maybe we are not so bad after all.

But is Herman Hospital trying to get us into trouble?

Will Immigration come and arrest Pedro?

We will welcome Pedro to our home. Wheel chairs and crutches are not an unusual sight at Casa Juan Diego. And you will see Ron or Benjamin or Jerry working with them.

But if Immigration visits us again, they had better bring an ambulance and not just pose as day labor contractors.

Matilde, a Guatemalan, just Arrived

Matilde has a newborn and has been all over the place, going from home to home with the promise of work, but doesn’t ever seem to get paid.

Finally, she had an offer. Someone said that they would give her $3,000.00 for her baby.

Her reponse: I have suffered much, I am suffering, but I am not crazy. No estoy loca. I will not sell my baby. I speak the Mayan language better than Spanish, but I understand this question.

We were happy to be able to help her keep the baby, undocumented or not.

And the Battered Women?

We accepted Blanca yesterday from the HPD Family Violence unit. She is on crutches because of the recent battering from her husband. She thinks her collar bone may be broken from a previous episode when he picked her up by her feet and threw her across the room. After twenty years of abuse, she has left her husband for the first time. Should we refuse her?

And what about Norma, who came to us with her face all swollen up, eyes and mouth full of stitches, a broken jaw and two shattered molars. (She told us a few days later that her husband had kicker her in the face.)

Both of these women have husbands who are citizens, but who refuse to legalize them–so they can keep power over them. Should we refuse them and their children when they come to us in fear for their lives?

Whose Responsibility

We will probably continue to have problems until some agency of the government steps forward and says: It is our responsibility to do this work and you have no right to be taking care of these poor people.

That will be the day! A beautiful day–a Dorothy Day!

We know! We just know that on Christmas Eve will come this couple asking for shelter. They will be undocumented people sent by a local inn (agency) and their names will be Joseph and Mary, and Mary will be pregnant with child.

Should we dump them on the street?

Pray for us now and in the hour of need.

Many thanks.

Houston Catholic Worker, , Vol. XIII, No. 5, December 1993