Immigration is a difficult and sensitive topic, wherever you go in the Western world right now. Its also a big mess …whether you’re in the US, UK, France or Australia. This week we have had to confront this issue here in Texas. The state of Texas has become a diverse place to live, Houston is now supposedly the most diverse city in America. The Hispanic community in Texas has grown in size and influence in this area of the country. I guess we had wondered for some time about the possibility that somebody known to us would get caught up in the current administration’s drive to target undocumented migrants. (I refuse to call anybody illegal)
And this past week…it happened. One of the ladies attending our church, her 20 year old son was arrested for a minor misdemeanour. ICE, the immigration people here in the US, had a representative in court and he was detained immediately.
We went to visit him this past week. He is being held here, at the South Texas Detention Center. The detention center resembles a prison, we were only able to speak to Francisco over the telephone through a window and he was wearing a blue jumpsuit. Undocumented migrants made to feel like criminals, its the same I’ve been anywhere in the Western World.
This family come from Juarez, a town bordering El Paso Texas. Ciudad Juarez has been notorious for many years, as this city has been at the heart of the problems drug cartels having been causing across Mexico. This family fled violence in Juarez, a store they owned was targeted by the cartels for protection money and racketeering. Eventually their store was set on fire.
They have lived in the United States for many years, and have only distant family connections left in Mexico. Sending Francisco back just doesn’t make any sense, the consequences would be splitting up another family, there is just absolute disregard for the emotional turmoil that would be caused by a decision to deport somebody like this. In the US, there are very few pathways for undocumented migrants to become citizens. It makes a mockery of the argument you hear from some people here ‘that if people migrate here legally we have no problem with that’. Its just not a valid argument what do you expect people to do?
In a depressing week in the United States, the encouraging part of this story is seeing people come together to help one another out in this time of crisis. Our church and many neighbours have come together to help the family raise enough funds to secure a good lawyer. Lots of people, who don’t have many resources available to them, having come together as one family to support one another. This is where i’ve seen the dignity restored in people this week, the dignity that is so often stripped away by the state.