By Fr. Ed O’Melia
I have a friend in another community who made a final application with his wife to become legal residents of this country. I think it was at the Omaha office. His wife’s appeal went through, but he was shipped off to jail, if I remember correctly, in Marshalltown. It seems he was in violation of an order to report somewhere. His attorney had received the order, but failed to pass it on to my friend, so he was criminalized by the negligence of a lawyer.
Then, while in jail, my friend was told to ask his family for clothes. When an immigration attorney heard this, she guessed that the immigration authorities were getting ready to deport him without a hearing. She immediately went to work restraining the local municipality from summarily deporting him. (What a headache that would have been for all!) It seems the local jailers were taking it upon themselves to enforce the law without a hearing.
The story ends well, for when my friend came before the judge he received a fair hearing and got his papers allowing him live in this country legally. The problem isn’t always with the migra, as my friends call immigration authorities, but also with inept lawyers and local police who abuse their power.
Another friend was visited at about 6:30 a.m. by immigration authorities with powerful flashlights beaming through the windows and insistent knocking. The kids were scared to death, and it was obvious the authorities had no warrant to search. Thank God a friend was on the phone with them and continually telling them they had a right to not open the door. They stayed put until the officers (if that is what they were) gave up.
Doesn’t this sound like the search for Jews in Germany during the Nazi years? Isn’t it requisite in justice that we develop a humane immigration policy instead of living with the unfounded fear and anxiety of what so many anti-immigrant organizations and talk shows are promoting?
(Fr. Ed O’Melia is pastor of St. Mary Parish in Davenport.)