Listening to the stories of immigrants

CHERRY HILL — On Thursday, Oct. 28, the Holy Eucharist Parish Social Justice Ministry, along with the Office of Life and Justice, presented an evening on “Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Listening to the Stories of Immigrants” at the parish here. Attendees watched the film “Dying To Live,” depicting the struggles of immigrants crossing into the United States, and they heard immigrants’ own stories of their passage into America.

The night urged participants to remember “Jesus’ call for all of us, to walk with the vulnerable,” and understand that, in accord with Catholic Social Teaching, “every human being has the right to the freedom of movement and of residence within the confines of their country; and, when there are just reasons for it, the right to emigrate and take up residence elsewhere,” remarked Larry DiPaul, director of the Camden Diocesan Office of Life and Justice. “This knowledge then, not only shapes our conscience and dialogue, but also compels us to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform in Washington, D.C.”

“I pray that as an (immigrant) community, we can let our voices be heard,” said one of the speakers, a Camden City resident who, at the age of 17, left Mexico for a better life and settled in New York City as an illegal immigrant.

As a lonely immigrant who knew no English and worked in factories and restaurants to earn money to send to his family back home, he said his Catholic faith was “the most important thing to get me through.”

Even after being deported by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, a time when he “felt worthless as a human being,” he found his way back to the United States and was connected with an amnesty program. Today, he works at a local hospital and is a lector and catechist at his Camden City parish. Still, he knows “how difficult it is to live in fear.”

Another illegal immigrant, who manages a restaurant in Camden and is also a parishioner at a church in the city, spoke through a translator about his experience coming to the United States from Mexico in 1995, taking two weeks to cross the border into Arizona. Today, he lives with his wife and daughters in Camden.

“I have faith that one day, everything will change for (immigrants). I hope the government will realize the suffering we undergo,” he said

His daughter, a third grader at a Catholic school in Camden, also spoke of how her parents “work hard to provide a better life for me and my sisters.”

She read a message describing her hope that people will understand that “there are no illegal people, just mothers, fathers, daughters, sons. We are all one family under God.”

The film “Dying To Live: A Migrant’s Journey” was viewed, and those gathered in the parish saw the struggle and hope along the U.S.-Mexico border, and how immigrants’ faith helps them survive the dangerous Arizona sun and animal and human attacks.

In an April statement on immigration reform that was published in the Catholic Star Herald, Bishop Joseph Galante called for everyone to “root (themselves) in the Gospel, asking not only ‘Who is my neighbor?’ but, ‘How can I be a better neighbor?’”

Bishop Galante acknowledged the “need to have enforceable immigration laws and (the need to be)…attentive to legitimate security concerns,” but stressed that we must not “simply brand undocumented workers as lawbreakers and demand…enforcement actions as an excuse to walk away from our obligation to care for our immigrant brothers and sisters.”

For comprehensive information about what the Catholic Church teaches about immigration, go to www.justiceforimmigrants.org

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