In the wake of a harsh new immigration law, the popular devotions of a small Alabama parish mirror the new fears and hardships of its members.
New state laws and the failure of immigration reform are taking a heavy toll on children and families.
Carlos Rodriguez has been receiving letters and brochures from colleges and universities from across the country encouraging him to apply because of his outstanding grades in an Alabama high school. He dreams of the day he can start college next year.
Catholic schools have largely failed to attract Hispanic Catholics, but some parishes have found innovative ways to draw them in.
As her Puerto Rican immigrant mother had done with her as a child growing up in Chicago, Jennifer Bonesz sent both of her daughters to Catholic schools. Athena, 14, attended from preschool through eighth grade, and Damary, 8, from preschool through third grade.
Arizona's immigration crackdown both was inspired by and inspires fear.
"Panico." That's how Joel Navarette, the coordinator of the youth group at St. Agnes Church in Phoenix, describes the reaction to SB 1070, an immigration crackdown that Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law in April.
Despite opposition from the U.S. bishops, polls have shown broad local and national support of the law and desire for similar legislation in other states.
Lady Liberty has seen many tempest tossed generations set foot upon these shores. With each new wave of immigrants, the American Catholic Church has become a harbor that gets wider and deeper by the year.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who signed the controversial law allowing police to detain anyone without proper papers, met with President Barack Obama. They have both called the immigration system "broken," but they seem to have divergent strategies to deal with it. Obama calls the Arizona law "misguided"; Brewer didn't hesitate to sign it. Still, they pledge to work together to find a solution (see Arizona Republic).
Immigrants today experience economic, social, legal, and pyschological crucifixions.
Last April I was working on a video documentary on the U.S.-Mexican border. It was Holy Week. Each day I talked with undocumented immigrants, church workers, coyote smugglers, and border patrol agents, trying to capture something of the complex and painful drama of illegal immigration.
Last week the Arizona state house and senate passed the most restrictive state measure against undocumented immigrants. Already the state has among the most restrictive laws against hiring them. Now police can stop anyone in the state to ask for documented proof they are here legally.
On Saturday, April 10, I was in the Teamsters Hall on Ashland Avenue in Chicago's near West Side, along with more than 1,000 others - mostly Hispanics, but Chinese and Polish. We were there to ask Senator Dick Durbin, Assistant Majority leader of the U.S. Senate, to push comprehensive immigration reform through this year. He promised to do so and pointed to the behind-the-scenes negotiation of Senators Charles Schumer (D, NY) and Lindsey Graham (R, SC) to structure the architecture of a bill and introduce later this month.
The pressure is building on the Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) to clean up its act in the case of detention and deportation.
As I wrote in a previous blog post, there are some horrendous examples of injustice to detained immigrants--both undocumented and lawfully here--in the custody of ICE. Not only have those held for minor infractions been deported, but ICE has not hesitated to hold indefinitely those the courts had determined mentally incompetent.