As I was driving around this weekend, I was listening to a news segment entitled, “Does Immigration Reform Still Have a Pulse?” It was hard for me to feel optimistic while listening. With the whirlwind of politics surrounding the government shutdown, I haven’t heard much about immigration reform in months.
One of my great-aunts crosses the border to visit La Lupe every few months. One night, years ago, we were all loading up in the car to go out to dinner, and I was waiting for her to come out of the house so I could lock up. I waited and waited and finally walked back in to see what the holdup was. She was frantically rummaging through her very small travel bag.
“Come on. Stop worrying; you don’t need to bring anything.” I thought she was trying to get a few dollars together to help my dad pay for dinner, which of course he would never allow.
“No, I need my papers.”
“Mi permiso. I can’t leave without mi permiso. What if someone asks for it? I have to take it with me.”
I’ll never forget the look in her eyes. The fear. And she was visiting legally. She believed that the country I had lived in my whole life, the country that is the leader of the free world, would have immigration officers walking around at restaurants, police officers stopping cars, agents strolling through the produce section stopping people to ask for their papers.
“They don’t do that. You don’t have to worry. We don’t do that in this country,” I assured her.
She ignored me, found her papers, and carefully placed them in her purse as we hurried out of the house.
It wasn’t until college that I began to understand why my tía was so scared.
In the middle of a workday, ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raided a factory in Massachusetts and took 361 workers into custody to be deported. Children didn’t get picked up from school; families were left without a breadwinner. These workers, ironically, were making military gear being used by U.S. soldiers in the Middle East. Many of these workers are still being processed by ICE six years after the raid.
In Idaho, ICE agents stood outside a local discount grocery store and stopped people exiting the store, asking for their papers.
Art Acevedo, the police chief here in Austin, constantly has to push against bills that try to force local police officers to act as immigration agents.
Things are happening to immigrants that we would never imagine happening here in the United States. The Church is very clear about its stance on immigration reform. The bishops have voiced the moral imperative that we bring this immigrant community out of the shadows. These people live in constant fear of deportation. They are subject to exploitation at the hands of their employers, and they are preyed upon by criminals who know they are too scared to report crimes to the authorities.
The USCCB continues to work for comprehensive immigration reform and also calls us to act to help undocumented people and their families.
Is immigration reform dead? Let’s let Congress know that we still have hope and demand that immigration reform stay alive. Take action November 13 — the National Call-In Day to Congress. Make a phone call or you could send this postcard.