As a peace and justice advocate, I am pleading for your help in imploring Congress and our president to create a path for our brothers and sisters who are undocumented. For many, they have been journeying 10, 20, 30 years and more in the valley of the shadow of death, hoping to be restored and experience the American Dream and to experience life. The Gospel Message is clear:“ I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (Mathew 25:31-40).
Our undocumented brothers and sisters work under inhumane conditions to send money back to their families who are desperately hungry. This is truly selfless sacrifice, reflecting the love of God. Jesus carried his cross to the place of his execution. Every year, thousands cross the desert terror, some dying in their pursuit to breathe the American Dream. Current estimates are that there are more than 20 million undocumented immigrants in the United States in desperate search of hope. However, they are forced to carry the burdens of the cross on their shoulders, trying to live in the shadows, evade the authorities, and at the same time work under severe duress, earning less than $5 an hour, and sometimes forced to work without pay.
What we have is contemporary slavery, where there is no mass exodus, the price of becoming an indentured laborer only a dream for the next step on the rung of the ladder.
Remember that Jesus, in his pursuit to carry the cross to the place of his execution, is helped by Simon of Cyrene, who is forced to assist Jesus in bearing his heavy burden. Working in the Diocese of Camden, where I regularly see churches populated with mainly Latin Americans, I am forced to ask the radical question: “Where are the Simons in the Body of Christ — those who are willing to take the audacious step of being the voice of those who often feel voiceless.”
According to Father Dan Groody, professor of theology and the director of the Center for Latino Spirituality and Culture at the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame, we need to begin to realize the deep connection between the Eucharist and immigration; we should all begin to view the “many connections between the breaking of the bread and the breaking of their bodies, between the pouring out of Christ’s blood for his people and the pouring out of their lives for their families, between Christ’s resurrection and their own” (The Eucharist and Immigration March 2009).
As Catholics we should call or write to our president and Congressional leaders. We should thank President Obama for convening a meeting of members of Congress to address comprehensive immigration reform, and remind them that legislation to effect such reform must include a path to legalization for the undocumented currently in this country, an emphasis on facilitating family reunification, a guest worker program that includes a path to legalization and strong protections for all workers, and a restoration of due process rights in immigration adjudication proceedings.
Let us stand for truth, justice, and solidarity. Our Eucharist reminds us that we are one human family, united in Christ. Let us reflect upon this admonition from Proverbs: “Speak out for those who cannot speak…Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and the needy.”
Sherine Green is associate director at Romero Center Ministries in Camden.