By Paul Welch
SUN contributing writer
On a Saturday afternoon the Immigration Task Force of ACTS, Alliance of Communities Transforming Syracuse, met for the last time to break bread with the Rodriguez family. Freddy, Bambi and their two young boys, Joel and Daniel, have come to rely on this group and their tireless lawyer, Jose Perez. You see Freddy is undocumented.
Unfortunately over two years ago, local police decided to take the role of immigration officials after a traffic stop. Against the basic rights afforded to all persons by our Constitution, they questioned Freddy above and beyond the routine traffic questions although they had no probable cause. Subsequently, he was jailed and was released only when friends raised the $5,000 bail.
For the next two-plus years the Rodriguez’s prayed that the U.S. would pass legislation that would give their family a chance to stay together. Sadly, on Jan.11, 2010 an immigration judge entered a deportation order after Freddy agreed to return voluntarily to Honduras, his native land. His two young sons will try to fill the void in their lives. His wife will work in so many ways to keep the children fed, housed and clothed. But her heart will ache everyday.
In the Gospel of Matthew 25:31 Jesus states one of the conditions to enter heaven as, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” His disciples remarked that he was not a stranger. Christ corrected them, “I assure you, as often as you did any of these things for the least of my sisters [Bambi] and brothers [Freddy, Joel, and Daniel] you did it for me.” The group of people gathered this past Saturday believes that those brackets are properly placed.
For Catholics, Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany and the Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on International Peace and Justice gives further moral direction when he states, “The Catholic Church has historically held a strong interest in immigration….
The Church believes that current immigration laws and policies have often led to the undermining of immigrants’ human dignity and have kept families apart….
The Church has a responsibility to shine the message of God on this issue and help to build bridges between all parties so that an immigration system can be created that is just and serves the common good, including the legitimate security concerns of our nation.”
By the time this paper comes out, Freddy will be in Honduras. There was a coup in Honduras last summer. Since that time thousands of activists have been detained, hundreds tortured and too many killed. Sadly, the coup and its aftermath have been led by graduates of the School of Americas. Graduates of this U.S.-sponsored school have murdered countless numbers of Catholics including Archbishop Oscar Romero and the Jesuits at the University of El Salvador. One of the people breaking bread with the Rodriguez family was Nancy Gwin. Nancy will soon serve six months in a federal prison for civil disobedience in trying to close this School of Assassins. Maybe if we knew what our government was doing, our government would do better.
As Catholics, we are universal. Although Freddy and Honduras are far away, they are still our concern. Bambi, Joel and Daniel are here to remind us of that.
The author is a parishioner of St. Vincent de Paul Church in Syracuse.