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The Tragedy of our Deported Brothers and Sisters: What Can We Do When People are Hurt So Much in the Immigration Debate?

Since the date on which the politicians in this country undertook the theme of the “undocumented” as a tool that would allow them to dig up more votes in the coming elections, many situations for and against our more than 10 million undocumented brothers and sisters have taken place.

We know the positive elements, since the press has given an ample description of the reaction in the whole country seeking justice for immigrants. However, few people know the tremendously negative consequences that brothers and sisters who are living and working in the United States have had to face.

I refer concretely to those who have been deported in the raids which have been carried out in the whole country, in which officials have been deporting persons who have lived perhaps five or more years in this country and:

1. Having started a family that in the majority of cases, have children born here who are U. S. citizens with all the rights that this involves, but with the limitation of not being able to sponsor their families through the Immigration Service because they are not old enough. Such is the case of Elvira Arellano, at this time hidden in a church in Chicago.

2. Who have worked intensely with pay lower than that required by law, for a long period of time, and have succeeded in prospering and having their own home and having their children begin to receive an education that will allow them a more decent future than that which they have had.

3. Who have paid taxes, not only sales tax on each purchase they make, but because of their condition of being undocumented they find themselves obligated to obtain a false social Security number, as well all know, in order to obtain employment. As a consequence, the deduction that the employer has made from each check for the Social Security Tax has allowed the government to collect billions of dollars without the workers being able to obtain any benefit for themselves or their families. In many cases they do not even have the right to medical care.

These are only a few aspects of this scene. Now we have to imagine what happens when one day, whatever day, in whatever place, they are surprised by an official and without more ado are deported to their country of origin without the right to defend themselves or to due process.

What Are the Consequences?

1. The breaking up of the family, without a doubt, the most serious.

2. Loss of employment, and thus their family is without resources in order to live.

3. To go into the unknown. The majority of those who decide to emigrate to a foreign country sell all they have and burn their bridges in order to have enough resources to arrive at their destination.

4. The risk of their lives. They probably feel isolated and miss their family so much that they decide to try to cross the border again, knowing that they are taking a great risk, since they don’t even have resources to pay a “coyote” which means that they will try to cross the river alone or try to go through the desert, which puts them in immediate risk of losing their lives, leaving their families in a total crisis of abandonment.

5. In the case in which they succeed in returning, they are in the position of having been previously deported. It is difficult to imagine the state of insecurity and anxiety with which these families are going to live.

What Can We Do? These Are the Options:

1. First and most importantly, pray profoundly for each of them and for their families.

2. Approach all of the legal avenues so that the authorities of this country may approve at once a worthy immigration reform that will allow the more than 10 million undocumented to live without the threat of what has been described here.

3. Ask the governments of the countries of origin of these brothers and sisters who were no longer able to provide opportunities of a decent life for all those who emigrate, to establish programs of great reach to assist the deported who lived several years in another country to begin a new life, to obtain good employment, taking advantage of the skills they have learned.

4. Recognize all that these countries have received from the migrants. Just Mexico received $20,000,000,000 billion dollars in payments sent home in 2005. Only the income from the sale of oil was greater.

All the cities of the United States have consulates where we can go so that through them, this act of justice can be achieved for those who have given so much. There is no doubt that we all can do something!

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XXVI, No. 7, November-December 2006.