by Fr. Keith Branson, C.PP.S., Publications Editor
It was 5:00 A.M. at a remote location, a converted warehouse. Five vans with high windows pulled up, full of undocumented immigrants on the verge of deportation. Their families and friends were there, as well as Elena Segura, Director of the Office of Immigrant Affairs and Immigrant Education for the Archdiocese of Chicago. As they stood by the van, Elena and the mother of one of the detainees heard a tapping from one of the vans. The woman’s son had managed to look through the high windows and saw her, tapping on the side of the van to let her know he knew she was there.
Almost everyone brought there was fluent in English, and all were working at some kind of job. Most had been living in the United States for several years: working, paying taxes, having wages set aside for benefits they could never claim, making positive contributions to society. The deportation center is one of five in the United States. Over 5 years, 150,000 have been deported from the Chicago area installation. Every one brought there is given literally one minute with an official when their name is called. If deported, they returned to the poverty and violence they had fled.
January 17, 2015: the gymnasium of Sacred Heart High School in Sedalia provided a large welcoming space for participants who came from as far as St. Joseph, Missouri to attend this year’s first presentation in our Bicentennial Peace and Justice Lecture series on January 17, 2015. The excellent turnout was divided almost evenly between Spanish and English speakers, and while Ms. Segura presented in one language, the other group experienced a break out session that provided more information and a chance for deeper interaction.
The morning session focused on Segura’s faith journey, as she started as unchurched in her native Peru and moving to Catholicism as she discovered the Church’s Social Justice teaching and its stance on migrants. With the audience, she unpacked the Church documents on immigration from the past 15 years, from Saint John Paul II’s Message for the 89th World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2003 and the documents from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Also reviewed were the failed attempts to reform U.S. immigration policies in 2007 and 2013. The afternoon session covered the nature of deportations, and the injustice perpetrated in their implementation.
Ms. Segura referred to Chicago’s Archbishop Blaise Cupich’s Epiphany homily at a special mass for immigrants, which reflected on the story of the Magi, particularly the dream that warned them not to return to Herod, and return home a different way. The Archbishop suggested to his audience that in seeking justice they may have to find different ways, seek new ways of changing how they live here as well as calling the nation to reform their policies.
It was an excellent start for our four-part lecture series, which continues with Sr. Helen Prejean, C.S.J., presenting in St. Joseph on March 7.