Permit me to introduce you to Mireya Gonzalez. She is a member of the Social Concerns (Social Justice) Committee that I chair for The Holy Name of Jesus parish in Redlands. Mireya is a parent of several children, and she and her husband are very active workers in the area of immigration. Mireya is a local representative to CHIRLA, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (in LA). Recently Mireya arranged for speakers from CHIRLA to speak to our committee. By the time you read this, CHIRLA will have opened a San Bernardino office. You can read about this organization on its website.
CHIRLA offers legal services, like Catholic Charities does, to immigrants trying to obtain Green Cards or other legal documents. But CHIRLA is also a “feet on the ground” organization that follows immigrants who are arrested by ICE. CHIRLA visits them in the detention centers, connects them with legal services and communicates with their families. For example, here is a message about one detainee, sent to me by Mireya a few days ago: “On February 14, Fernando … was detained by ICE. He is 19 years old and became homeless at the age of 16 after having family conflict. His sister, Dalia, and her younger brother were taken in by a family friend. Fernando was not as fortunate. He would sleep in a car, shower in his high school locker room and go hungry several days at a time. In February, he had an encounter with ICE while on the streets and was taken to the Adelanto Detention Center. … On Friday, he was given a $2,000 bond. Help us get Fernando out of Adelanto by donating! It is crucial that he is released as soon as possible as his mental health is deteriorating.”
Of course Fernando is only one of the vulnerable immigrants in our area. In our parish, the Hispanic members of our Social Concerns Committee estimate there are about 400 Dreamers. One of them is the son of a woman named Araceli, whom I tutor at the literacy center in Redlands. She is a parish member and a cook in a Mexican restaurant, and her husband drives a street sweeper on the night shift. They both pay taxes. She has lived in the U.S. for 24 years but does not even have a Green Card. One of their sons is a citizen, but the other is a Dreamer. She is trying to learn to speak and write English so that she can begin paperwork toward getting a Green Card, which you must have for five years before applying for citizenship; a Green Card would help her get a better job. Like all people in this situation, Araceli and her family live daily with fears of being arrested like Fernando was. I feel privileged to know her, to know about her life. But I also feel helpless as I learn more and more about our broken immigration system from people like Mireya, and about the harm it does to families and people like Fernando and Araceli.
By Sister Mary Garascia
Assembly Directive: Stand with the marginalized, make a collective commitment to promote and witness nonviolence, and strive to effect reconciliation among God’s people.