Support our immigrant brothers and sisters Print
Thursday, Dec. 08, 2016 -- 12:00 AM

“For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mt 25:35).

All of us (except Native Americans) who live in the United States are descended from immigrants.

My own ancestors came from Ireland, Germany, and Belgium seeking a better life in this country for themselves and their families. Most of them were Catholic, so they also wanted a place where they could worship freely.

Immigrants have continued to come to the United States. Many are welcomed by the Statue of Liberty in New York City’s harbor with words inscribed on the statue’s pedestal that say: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Concerns about immigrants

However, in recent years, our country and world have been devastated by violence — some sadly perpetrated in the name of religion. Some citizens in the United States are afraid that migrants and refugees from other countries are bringing terrorism with them.

So some politicians — including President-elect Donald Trump — have advocated deporting immigrants as a means to bring security to our nation.

However, returning some immigrants to their native countries might mean torture and death. Many of them have lived in the United States for many years contributing to our society. They now live in fear of being deported.

One man’s story

I talked recently with Juan Estrada, who is a U.S. citizen raised in Mexico. He is an active Hispanic member of the Cathedral Parish in Madison.

Twenty years ago when he lived in Mexico, Juan was stopped by a member of the drug cartel when he was on his way to make a deposit in a bank. He was asked to hand over the money at gun point and was almost abducted.

He begged to be let go, and the man did release him. Juan fled the country and did not go back until 2006, when his mother was dying. Juan found out that the drug cartel has long memories. The cartel found out that he had returned and threatened to kidnap him. He again left and returned safely to Madison.

He can understand why many members of the Hispanic community are afraid of going back to Mexico. Some of them are literally losing sleep as they worry about the future.

Support efforts

Juan and other members of the Madison area Hispanic community have been meeting to form a support group along with Deacon Jack Fernan of the Cathedral Parish. They are encouraging all people to pray and fast from the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12 through the next year up to the 100th anniversary of the appearance of Our Lady at Fatima. The last apparition occurred on October 13, 1917.

They seek to place before God the hopes, fears, and needs of all immigrant families who have come to the United States seeking a better life. They hope to achieve unity, healing, and hope for immigrant individuals, families, friends, and visitors from many nations.

Besides prayer, Deacon Fernan and Juan Estrada say it might be important for concerned citizens to contact their U.S. senators and congressional representatives urging them to treat immigrants fairly and not deport them.

I encourage all people to join in this effort. Let us support our immigrant brothers and sisters in prayer on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and in other ways in the months ahead.