This past Saturday, while on a quick run to the local grocery store, I ran into Sara. She had her two youngest girls with her—one a tenth grader, and the other in the middle of her second year at the university. They are her seventh and eighth children, and, like their mom, bright-eyed and delightful to be with.
Sara been married “for forever,” as she put it, to an abusive fellow who was an American citizen. He held her in check with the threat of being able to have her deported “any time he wanted.” Fourteen years ago, however, Sara gathered up her courage, and her eight children, and walked away from the abuse, and headed down the street to our parish office. We helped set her up with housing and counseling. She, for her part, on her own, with eight children and no useful immigration status, created a new life.
Her older children have grown up and established lives that any parent would be proud of. One is a much sought after computer scientist, another is an engineer, another a registered nurse working in an emergency room, and another a social worker.
As we chatted about her children and how they were doing, I asked her about her immigration status, had she managed to fix any of that. She said, “No, no, I am undocumented forever, I think.”
I asked her if she was nervous, what with this new president and his promise to deport people.
“Of course I am,” she said, “Especially here on the border. You know, the border patrol is everywhere, always watching. But God gave me this family to raise, and that is what I am doing.”
Later on, on that same morning, several hundred people gathered in front of the federal courthouse in Brownsville, within a short distance of the border wall, to join the million and more people from around the world walking in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington. The marchers were loud, and in plain sight. Many of them were undocumented, and perhaps, like Sara, nervous, but fearless.
One of the speakers, herself an American citizen, addressed the new president’s threat. “He wants to put up a wall? Well, we have our own wall—a wall of strong, courageous women!”
On this first Monday of a new administration in Washington, the school buses are running throughout the neighborhood, picking up kids for school. Mothers, documented and undocumented, are busily doing all the things that they daily do. I watch two border patrol trucks, one after another, rumble down my street, patrolling the neighborhood. While it is a beautiful, bright sunny morning, I know that there is dark fear inside many of my neighbors’ homes. I imagine that the parents of those school kids are nervously making plans as to how best to raise the family that God gave them.
I like their courage.
But when I read today’s newspaper, my heart hurts and my blood races.
I worry for them.
*(“Today the headlines clot in my blood” from Naomi Shihab Nye’s Blood)