US Catholic Faith in Real Life

The travails of Jeffrey Isodoro

By Father Tom Joyce, CMF | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Hispanics fault President Barack Obama’s administration for the increased pace of deportations. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) claims most of those deported are criminals or scofflaws--those who ignored a deportation order from an immigration court. But immigrant advocates claim too many--about a half--of the deportees had fallen into ICE’s hands after being picked up for minor offenses. Such is the case of Tomas Isadoro who was an employed construction worker for 25 years, married with two boys born here, and never har trouble with the law--until he got stopped in Texas for a broken tail light. Apparently, the Secure Communities program kicked up his name and he was on his way back to the Mexican state of Puebla.

Tomas’ case is far too common. What interested the New York Times was that his two U.S.-born sons--therefore, U.S. citizens--have accompanied him. The youngest is not yet school age and so is adapting to life in Mexico with relative ease. His 10-year-old, Jeffery, is in the sixth grade and having a hard time adjusting. His Spanish is not great and so he falling behind in school. Other students have mixed feelings about him--resentful of the gringo yet curious about his experience in the U.S.

The Mexican census estimates there are 300,000 such Jefferys that returned between 2005 and 2010.

Parents who are being deported--or even just returning to Mexico because of the hard times--must make a hard choice: Should they leave their U.S.-born kids here with relatives, where they have better schools and hopefully better opportunities? Should they taken them with to keep the family together? Only time will tell which is the right choice. This is the kind of cruelty that prompted the American Catholic bishops to argue strenuously to avoid breaking up families.

Those familiar with the situation see problems for children like Jeffrey. He seems isolated, and his teacher often finds him inattentive in class. While he is very attached to his father, he makes quite clear that when the time comes he will return to the U.S. This seems to be the feeling of most U.S.-born students. Education experts believe they will return with limited skills, having had troubled childhoods and needing to accommodate to society and place that is different from what they left.

The plight of students like Jeffery, as well as the undocumented children who return to Mexico, is not large in number compared to the young people who will benefit from a Dream Act or Obama's deferral of departure. But it carries significance: These children will return and have not been well served by our deportation policy. Their plight has to be brought into the discussion of immigration reform. They have done no wrong--and remember, both scripture and jurisprudence instruct us, that the sins of the parents do not fall on the children.

At the core of any immigration reform must be the preservation of families. In Tomas Isodoro's case, he was as law abiding as the next guy, paid taxes without reaping much benefit, raised two kids, and supported himself and his family for 25 years. The country's grievance against him, aside from being in the country without papers, was a broken tail light. For this, his sons must join him in exile.