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The MinuteMen are Coming to Houston – Another Violence for Immigrants to Face

They’re coming with guns.

The Minute Men are coming to the corners of Casa Juan Diego armed to the teeth to confront the immigrants who come to earn money to support their children-something we never knew was treasonous.

Violence, however, is not new to immigrants. The moment they hopped on a train to come North, they experienced violence-the violence of the train tracks where lay the arms, legs, and even heads of victims.

If that was not bad enough, thieves hopped the train also to violate the women, to rob and kill the men.

If they get past the Suchiate, the river that separates Mexico and Guatemala, they are lucky, but then they meet the thieves, some with uniforms, some with not, to take any money and anything of value they may have with them. Some immigrants are deported with even their clothes having been taken. They return naked to Guatemala. Desperate to survive, they are returned to Tecún Umán, and ugly hell hole where women are forced to sell their bodies for 25 cents to survive.

All of the above is why we collaborated with Bishop Ramazzini and the Scalabrini community to establish centers for immigrants in Tecún Umán.

The journey across Mexico is a lonely one, especially in unpopulated areas where people can get lost or starve, or even end up in a desert to die from the violence of the sun.

The trip across Mexico is still a via crucis, a way of the cross, because of facing the violence of hunger and thirst and thieves and robbers. Husbands tell us about their wives having being violated while they were held at gunpoint.

Then the violence of the Río Bravo (Rio Grande, as it is called on this side) where numerous people have died to make the river a cemetery. For many it has not turned out to be the River Jordan.

We remember the first time a young woman asked a special favor from us to solve her problem. Her best friend and neighbor had drowned in the river when they crossed. Could we arrange a way for the family to know. She could not bring herself to tell them since she knew them as neighbors.

The tragedy of drowning was not the only crisis for young women who lost their friends at the border. Not much better was what happened to women who became stranded at the river and abandoned by friends. Coyotes offered to carry them across and put them on the road to the North. They insisted that they would not charge. However, the charged much. They took their pay in the flesh.

If immigrants do arrive in the United States they will see violence again. They are always subject to the gun-or the knife. We have seen many immigrants who have been shot in the back, shot in the head, shot in the leg, or knife wounds in all parts.

But one of the cruelest responses occurs when they meet the gun when they attempt to visit the house of the patron to demand their pay after days and weeks of not being paid.

The employers always warn them: You come to my house even with Don Marcos, and you will be met with a gun.

Pictures and Throw-Away Workers

There is a lot of talk (and there are protests) about the police taking pictures of the immigrants at the street corners in Houston who are looking for work.

We are not sure that taking pictures will do any good, but there are pictures that we want published in the Houston Chronicle and even in the New York Times. These are pictures of Juan, who fell off a third story scaffolding to break his back and now has no use of his arms or legs, no income, and no one to care for him. We want to present the picture to the contractor who hired Juan for low wages, long hours, and hard work.

In fact, we would like pictures of Miguel, Lorenzo, and Jaime, who also fell off scaffolding and are now totally handicapped. We would also like pictures of those contractors who hire the men from the corners, only to never pay their workers and then make it impossible for themselves to be found.

We would like pictures of those men who were shot in the back and who receive no aid.

We would like pictures of the weeping women after their terrible journey and those who have lost a foot or leg.

Some people call the most ill of these men and women “throwaways” because they are now unable to work or to “contribute.” We know them, though, as human beings made in the image and likeness of God.

The newest difficulty to affect the poorest of the sick and injured is that the Harris County Hospital District has cut off any assistance with supplies for those seen by their doctors and therapists-catheters, diapers, gauze for wounds, or special bandages to cure the worst bed sores often caused by sitting in wheel chairs. Some have come to Casa Juan Diego to ask for help after out of desperation they have re-used catheters and bandages and have infections.

Why are the Minutemen, who have announced that they are coming in October to Houston to “observe,” coming with guns against these poor people? If they are coming to observe, they will have no need for guns. Instead of recruiting for membership at reduced prices those who have licenses to carry concealed weapons, they would do better to dismiss their many members who have neo-Nazi ties.

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XXV, No. 6, September-October 2005.