Family matters most. Marriage vows are sacred. That’s why Flor and her preschooler and 11-month-old will leave their home in Mount Pleasant to board a bus to Mexico on Nov. 2. They will be reunited for the first time in months with their husband/father, Reinaldo. An employee at a concrete plant in Mount Pleasant, he was apprehended May 9 in an immigration raid and later deported. Now the family will live in an unfurnished, one-room shelter that he built for his family. Reinaldo has no job in Mexico.
None of the 32 immigrants apprehended in the raid by U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement wanted to violate their adopted country’s immigration law. They left their Latin American countries to escape poverty, violence, criminal activity and gangs. They didn’t enter the U.S. legally because it was almost impossible to do so. “For most immigrants, the process of applying for and being granted a visa takes years, even decades. For many, there is no line because there isn’t a visa category they qualify for” (American Friends Service Committee, Iowa Immigrant Rights Program).
For Flor, Reinaldo, their children and the other families impacted by ICE’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants, Mount Pleasant is home. They live productive lives — working, going to church, getting their kids to school, coaching soccer, volunteering at the food pantry and paying taxes. They help our parishes, schools and the economy to thrive. Shouldn’t we find a way for them to continue to live the American dream?
Immigration reform is in political stalemate that creates upheaval in our communities and unravels families. Our Catholic Church teaches that the family is the essential building block of society and the foundation for the transmission of faith. Shouldn’t we be working to encourage flourishing families and save a place for them in our parishes, businesses and schools?
The standstill on immigration reform doesn’t give us a pass. The plight of hard-working families necessitates action that will benefit all of us, people made in the image of God. Our task is to convince Congress to draft legislation that ensures all people have the right to a decent life free from violence, that protects our borders, provides a pathway to citizenship for immigrants already in this country and provides an opportunity for hard-working families to enter the U.S.
Meanwhile, the 24 men who have been released on bond to await immigration hearings next year are stuck. They can’t leave Mount Pleasant and they can’t financially support their families without obtaining work permits, a lengthy legal process. These individuals paid taxes and did not take away jobs from others. “We’ve got 200 jobs open now in Mount Pleasant,” said Iowa State Rep. Dave Heaton of Mount Pleasant.
“These 24 are worthy of an immigration hearing and the chance to stay,” says the Rev. Trey Hegar, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Mount Pleasant, which serves as a central point of services for the immigrant families. Other churches and organizations in the community collaborate closely with First Presbyterian to support the families, most especially St. Alphonsus Parish in Mount Pleasant.
Matthew 25 provides the instructions as to how to proceed, says Father Paul Connolly, pastor of St. Alphonsus, which has donated nearly $20,000 in the six months since the raid on behalf of the impacted families. Whatever their immigration status, “they still need food and clothing and shelter,” Fr. Connolly said. “We need to support them.”
Here are ways to be supportive:
• Educate yourself and raise the awareness of others about the causes and effects of immigration.
• Believe in God’s abundance. Follow the teachings of Jesus, which will impact how you respect your neighbor, the Rev. Hegar says.
• Pray: for all of those caught up in the immigration crisis, all those trying to help them and for our country to come together to update and improve our immigration law.
• Make a donation. Go to http://www.firstpresbyonline.org/. Or by mail, send a check made out to First Presbyterian Church, 902 S. Walnut, Mount Pleasant, Iowa, 52641. Put Iowa WINs on the memo line. Iowa WINs (Iowa Welcomes Immigrant Neighbors) is a commission of the First Presbyterian Church in Mount Pleasant assisting families impacted by the May 9 immigration raid at Midwest Precast Concrete.
• Encourage your parish to adopt one of the impacted families and support them during the upcoming winter months.
Who among us would choose to have our family live in a one-room shelter, with no job prospects? Our God is a generous, merciful God. Aren’t we called to do the same?
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor