No! I Can't Keep Silent

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Dear friends,

It’s Advent – a time of JOYOUS HOPE and waiting.  And I’m ready to begin my Christmas letters, where of course, 

Dear friends,

It’s Advent – a time of JOYOUS HOPE and waiting.  And I’m ready to begin my Christmas letters, where of course, I want to express that same hope and joy that we as Christians celebrate in Christmas.

I don’t want to overwhelm you with the stories I constantly hear from the border: BUT – as the singer Rosa Zarate expresses in her song of the 1980´s, ¡No!  ¡No puedo calllar! No!  I can’t keep silent!

I do want to share with you this story I heard this morning – a story full of sadness, full of reason for indignation, and yet – despite all- a story with some beauty because we see the depth of beauty in in the love of a mother and father for their children.

So this family from Guatemala, Candy and Brian, and two daughters Sofia (8) and Anita (4) left Guatemala in August (thank God, before the administration in Washington pressured Mexico to close its southern border to those coming from Central America.)  Why did they leave?

Candy worked in a bank (she wore high heels, she told me.) Shortly before her incident, she knew of a family where the drug dealers had blocked the car that the family was driving in. They had dragged the mother out, a young beautiful woman, and threatened her: come with them or they would kill her husband and/or small child.  They took her, stripped her, abused her, and the next day, had the audacity to leave her massacred body on the doorsteps of her home! Yes, they knew where their victim – and her family – lived!

So one day as Candy was driving to work, a car was trying to chase her down, to block her. She got to work, ran into the bank shaking all over, and called her boss, who barred the door.  Then he called some friends (who belonged to a rival gang).  Then he told her she needed to leave THAT DAY, because otherwise they would find out where she lives.  She managed to call her husband at his work, he picked up the kids and they met at a designated place – and they left the country.

Even though they had a legal document to cross into Mexico, the border patrol there was ugly and tore it up.   They had both good and bad experiences crossing Mexico. She spoke of days and nights in the desert, and when it got cold at night, how she and her husband would get the kids under a bush for some warmth,  cover them with their what they could, and cuddle them – while of course the parents endured the cold. (As I came down with my typical annual bad cold-sore throat- cough two days ago, I MARVEL that these people who have endured so much come through seemingly in good health.  I’d probably die of pneumonia along the way, or else my barking cough would betray me to the immigration officers.)

At this point, it was time to send her to breakfast, and I didn’t get the rest of her story. But here is a precious fragment I don’t want to lose.

Crossing a river (I don’t know if this was Rio Grande into the U.S. or an earlier river) the dad swam carrying the little 4 year old (the eight year old was a good swimmer). The four year old had a precious little doll (teddy bear or whatever) so the dad hugged the girl tight with one arm as he held her precious toy up high so it wouldn’t get wet.  Another incident as they came through Mexico: at one place somebody threw beans at them and said, “Here, that’s what you eat in Guatemala anyway!”  The mother told me that they picked up the beans and pretended to eat them, so that the children would think this was only a game!  Now doesn’t that show the deep love of parents protecting their children from seeing the ugliest?

So they left Guatemala in late August, it took them about two months to cross Mexico, and since then, they have been waiting in Ciudad Juarez to cross over to their hope for safety – with her mother who lives in California.

I am super-impressed by the gentleness and inner strength of these people.  Who of us could endure all this without becoming psychotic?

Now I don’t know much about the legal process at this point, but soon (hopefully in December or January) I hope to visit a friend, Heidi Cerneka of St. Louis, MO, who works here in El Paso as an immigration lawyer, so I can find out what happens.

This is what I believe happens. They sign up when they get to the border, and get called up anywhere between a couple weeks and a few months after signing. Then they get to come in “legally” but have a court date assigned to them in a couple weeks – hopefully near where their final destination is. At that court date, they will be able to plead for asylum.  BUT in a two or three week interval, who knows if they will be able to find a good lawyer, and (if they can’t find a lawyer who works with an organization like Catholic Charities that defends immigrants) if they will be able to pay the lawyers’ fees.

I am told (and I hope to do some research on this) that most of the cases are rejected in court.  And we know that the Administration in Washington is trying to limit the reasons for which one can apply for refugee status, and has drastically lowered the number of refugees the U.S. will accept for 2020.

So this precious family from Guatemala, Candy, Brian, Sofia and little Anita: what will happen to them if they are refused asylum (giving them the right to stay in the U.S.)?  They will be deported right back to the violence and terror they escaped from.

So I know the U.S. can’t solve all the worlds’ problems, nor should we try to impose our solutions on other countries.  But these drug cartels are stronger than any small government of Central America. It’s a problem for united action, for instance from the U.N.  Meanwhile, my Advent- Christmas- all year round wish is that we once again become a country that says sincerely, “Give me your poor, your tired, those longing to be free!”

Once again, I close, wishing you peace, inner wisdom, strength, and open hearts,

Much love,

Sister Edith 

“How important it is to learn to be a friendly and outstretched hand! Try to grow in friendship even with those who think differently than you, so that solidarity might grow among you and become the best weapon to change the course of history.”   

Pope Francis