Journey to Justice: A Catholic Vision of Immigration
As a young priest in Denver, Colorado, I was once asked to accompany a family at the graveside of their infant son, who had died during childbirth. I knew only that they were Spanish-speaking and that I would need to perform the ritual in Spanish. I met the family at the small grave; they were a young couple with a four-year-old daughter. No other friends or family were present, which told me that they were recently arrived immigrants. They were poor and alone.
The four of us prayed amid the vast expanse of green lawn and white stone. During this time I wondered how they had come, how they had made such a difficult journey with a little girl and the mother pregnant. When we finished, I asked them, and they told me, “Corriendo, Padre” (“We came running, Father”).
They came running from poverty and hopelessness toward a dream of security and future promise. In their journey they experienced the loss of family and social relations, the loss of church support and familiar religious expressions. And now they had experienced the death of their infant son. They had risked much to make a journey that they believed would help them care for their children. They still had their daughter, and I’m sure they continued their journey to make a life in this new country.
This family’s story reveals a deeper reality that has remained invisible to the eyes of most people. The physical, emotional, and spiritual scars often experienced by immigrants, and felt most acutely by the poor, are not seen or known by the rest of the population. They come uninvited, in a certain sense, and are often unwelcome upon arrival. The experience of this family is truly one of flight – flight from danger (poverty, joblessness, and so on) toward safety (economic security). For the vast majority of poor immigrants, it is a journey of survival.