Last Wednesday, Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos went to Mass and said a prayer before voluntarily going to her biannual appointment at the immigration office in Phoenix.
Guadalupe knew that because of President Trump’s executive order on immigration enforcement, she was now considered a high priority for deportation and could be sent back to Mexico, leaving her two teenage children, both of them U.S. citizens.
She went to the appointment anyway, because that’s what she has always done, and sure enough, the next day Guadalupe became national news as one of the first people deported as a result of the president’s actions.
For those of us at the Kino Border Initiative, which assists migrants at facilities across the border in Nogales, in the Mexican state of Sonora, Guadalupe’s story was much more than a headline. It was personal.
Not only did we help Guadalupe after her deportation by providing her with food and a place to stay, but at the Kino Border Initiative — where I serve as executive director — we help many migrants like Guadalupe, sheltering those who have been recently deported or those who are seeking safety in the U.S.
This is our ministry, and as a Catholic priest, it is an answer to a divine calling.
For me, the teachings of the Catholic Church are as clear as God’s commands to the people of Israel in Hebrew Scriptures: We are called to welcome widows, orphans, the poor and migrants.
Sadly, these explicit instructions are as needed today as they were thousands of years ago.
Nativism and xenophobia are resurgent. Those with a reasonable desire for security fall prey to the scaremongering tactics of cynical politicians. The ideals that define not only our faith but also our nation’s character are being set aside in a deeply troubling way.
Perhaps no person has done more to focus the public’s attention on the plight of migrants and the risks they face than Pope Francis.
When the pope visited Mexico a year ago this week, he traveled to the border with the U.S. and articulated his vision for a world where death and the exploitation of those seeking a better life are no longer commonplace.
Just last week, Francis reiterated that vision, calling on all Christians and all people of goodwill “not to create walls but to build bridges.”
Yet President Trump, who made the building of a huge new wall on the border with Mexico a centerpiece of his campaign, has a different vision.
In his controversial and legally contested executive order, Trump prioritized the deportation of any undocumented immigrant who had been convicted of a crime regardless of its nature or severity, including those who are believed to have committed crimes but have not been charged.
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Source: RNS/Sean Carroll
Photo: Rob Schumacher/The Arizona Republic