The North American Migration Committee met February 21-22, 2017, at the US Provincialate Offices in Franklin, Wis. Those present included Fr. Richard MacDonald, Karen Mahoney, Fr. Peter McKenna, Mark Peters and Fr. Tony Russo. Fr. Louis-Marie Kayamba Butari and Fr. Jan de Jong are also members of the committee but were unable to attend.
On the evening of February 21, members of the Migration Committee were joined by five members of the local SCJ community to hear the personal stories of several immigrants. The following are notes taken from the sharing done by Eva and Myriam. 7
1998 arrived in Michigan, where she studied ESL, received conditional Green Card. 2000 moved to New York City, married to a U.S citizen became a victim of domestic abuse and violence. Fled to Milwaukee. 2006 became involved in Sanctuary Movement, received Deportation Order (husband no longer sponsor). Felt that immigration workers treated her as just another file to get off the table; not seen as a human being. 2009 granted Green Card (without husband sponsorship) via Catholic Services with the help of Barbara Graham. 2012 became U.S citizen. She wants to do something for others; just to be there and offer hope.
Already before 9/11 2001, husband had been in the U.S for five years. One month before 9/11, her second son had an accident in which his skin was badly burned with oil and required a skin graft. After spending all their savings on treatments in Mexico, Eva became aware of free treatments at Shriners Hospitals in the U.S. Her husband arranged for “coyotes” to lead them to the U.S. Eva and the four boys age 5, 6, 12 and 15 walked, hid, and did what they had to do to make it across. It was beyond difficult! Felt treated as pieces of merchandise. Because of the coyote situation, “once you’re here, there’s no way back,” and “if I ever knew what I’d have to go through, I would never had tried it.” They finally arrived in Phoenix where they were kept in a trailer waiting for the trailer to be full as well as waiting for her husband to send the rest of the money. They waited three weeks; then 9/11 happened. The “coyotes” wanted more money. Her eldest son was afraid that they would be separated and they were. Eva was moved to Las Vegas. The four boys were put on two different planes to Chicago. Finally the money arrived. Eva was able to be reunited with her family. Eva’s husband was with them for five years when in 2006 immigration officers apprehended him at his work site. He was told that he must pay a fee to be released on his own cognizance. He did so thinking that when he signed the document and paid the fee, he could go home. What he signed was his own deportation papers. 2008 her husband was deported and Eva was cheated out of her husband’s pension. After 2008, the undocumented community waited for “their great hope” – Obama – but after his first hundred days it was clear he wouldn’t be able to do much and in fact began doing more deportations than before. Eva then became involved with the New Sanctuary Movement and Voces De la Frontera. They have been helping more than anyone, it “keeps her going and gives her hope.”
Eva may be afraid to go to work, leave the house or drive but at least now she has a number to call for support, court accompaniment, etc. She goes to court with other women and offers any support she possibly can. “I have been helped and I feel compelled to help others. My faith continues to sustain me.” Approaching priests in the Church to talk to them about Sanctuary, they will politely listen, but for most priests it is “too political” and they keep their distance from the group. Most important thing church could do is “let us come to your parishes to tell our stories.” Eva shared that “I feel grateful and proud to be in the United States. I feel very protected here. I love the parks, the beauty and if you’re good at something, you rise, unlike Mexico where you have to know someone.”