December 11th, 2019
Joanna sent an urgent email on Monday evening. She told us that a local migrant family needs $3000 to pay for their immigration lawyer by Thursday, which is tomorrow. This is a problem.
Joanna is the de facto leader of our group that went to El Paso/Ciudad Juarez back in October. Fourteen of us went through a five-day-long immersion program with Annunciation House. We saw the tent cities in Juarez where hundreds, if not thousands, of migrants are stranded. We stayed in a shelter that housed migrants who had somehow managed to get into the United States. We witnessed a massive amount of suffering.
Near the end of our visit to El Paso, the head of Annunciation House, Ruben Garcia, encouraged us strongly to GO HOME, and to help migrants in the Milwaukee area.
That’s exactly what we have done. Father José hooked us up with a family that is seeking asylum in the U.S. In the brief time that we have been connected with this family, members of our group have provided them with warm clothes and money. So far, so good.
Now the crisis hits. The family has to pay a total of $6000 to pay for a legal services. They only have half of the money. This not because of a lack of effort on their part. They simply have not been able to earn enough, and time is running out. They need the lawyer. If an asylum seeker goes into an immigration court without legal representation, the migrant is almost guaranteed to be denied asylum. That’s just how it is.
I contacted Father José yesterday. He asked me to bring a check to the cathedral downtown. I would have rather avoided the drive, but there is a deadline looming.
I wrestled with what I should give. My wife and I are frugal. This comes from years of practice. For decades we struggled to make ends meet. We reviewed each and every expenditure. We still do that. We don’t buy much for ourselves. However, we do open our wallets to help others. It’s only money.
Over the years, we tried to be generous, and it always worked out. We were never impoverished by giving to somebody who was hurting. We have always had enough. Sometimes karma works like that.
I wrote a check before I left home. I thought of an amount that I could afford, then I doubled it. Giving has to sting a little bit.
I drove to cathedral, and parked on Van Buren. I went into the office, and spoke with the receptionist.
I told her that I wanted to see Father José. She thought for a moment.
“I’m not sure that he’s still here. He might have left already. Let me make a call.”
Then she said, “Father José is with some people discussing a funeral. What did you want to see him for?”
“I have a check for him.”
“Does he know you? What’s your name?”
“I’m Frank. We went to the border together.”
The woman smiled, and said, “Oh, that’s so nice.”
I frowned a bit. “Well, I wouldn’t say that the border trip was nice.”
She replied, “Of, yes, of course. But it means you have a heart.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
She asked me, “Do you want to leave the check with me? I’ll make sure that he gets it. Or, you can go upstairs and give it to the pastoral associate.”
I handed to her. “You can have it.”
She smiled again and said, “Thank you so much.”
I went out and got into my car. As I drove home, I started second-guessing myself. Should I have given more? Did I hold back?
That’s a bad game to play. I did something. Something is better than nothing.
Joanna told us that she is praying for a miracle for the family.
Who knows? Maybe they’ll get one.