A Time to Weep
By Ryan Murphy, Institute Justice Team
Paraphrasing Ecclesiastes 3:4 and echoing the recent sentiment of Pope Francis when he visited the Island of Lampedusa, Sister of Mercy JoAnn Persch began Thursday’s immigration panel by stating “now is a time to weep.” In the less than two days I spent in Chicago, I have been reminded several times that it is a time to weep and a time to mourn. How could one have any other reaction when families continue to be ripped apart by record mass deportations? Though the immigration reform panel at Saint Xavier University was excellent, it was also emotionally difficult. In our audience was a mother with two young children, ages 10 and 6. Prior to starting our event, the panelists and I learned that the children’s father was recently arrested and awaiting deportation. It was clear: the family’s forced separation was an emotional hardship that the mother and older child were trying to process internally. (See the image of 10-year-old Wilson’s letter.)
Following the presentation from the panelist, the audience had an opportunity to ask questions. The young child, whose family’s fate remains uncertain, worked up the courage to approach the microphone. He humbly asked our panel of experts and me specifically, “What can we do to stop deportation?” While this child should be concerned about sports or cartoons like other ten-year-olds, he sought consultation of what he could do to keep his dad in the United States. I could see the tears streaming down his mother’s cheek, proud of his fortitude but in despair over the loss of her husband. My heart broke that very moment; it was certainly a time to weep.
The next day, I started at 4:30 am so I could accompany Mercy Sisters Pat Murphy and JoAnn Persch to Broadview detention facility. Undocumented immigrants begin their deportation from the United States outside of this Immigration and Custom Agency (ICE) processing center. With the leadership of our two Sisters of Mercy, people of faith join together every Friday morning to pray for and with families that wait outside the building for an opportunity to say goodbye to their loved ones. I spoke with one mother who came to say goodbye to the father of her five-year-old child. She said that although several years ago he had the poor judgment to drive under the influence, he had otherwise been a good father, a hard worker and a genuinely good person. While driving his child to school, he was pulled over and his son had to watch his father get arrested. All the while, the child kept telling the law enforcement officers, “My daddy is not bad.” This little boy will celebrate his birthday later this month without his father, without understanding why the policemen took his daddy away. Clearly, it is a time to weep.
Every day roughly 1,100 people are deported from our country. Most have committed no non-immigration related offense. These are our neighbors, our co-workers, our partners in the PTA and our fellow parishioners. This is a time to weep and a time to implore the House of Representatives to take action. Then, as the second half of Ecclesiastes 3:4 states, we will have “a time to dance” and celebrate the victory of this civil rights issue of our decade. Stand with the Sisters of Mercy and be a thorn for justice in the side of our elected officials. Together, let’s continue to demand just and humane immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship. With your help, no more children will be forced to be deprived of their parents.