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Mother’s Day is time to celebrate the first women in our lives who teach us to love. From a baby’s first breath, the role of a mother is to love, nourish and protect her children. My faith tradition teaches that family is a central social institution that must be supported because it impacts human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow in community.
In the shadows of communities across the country, families now face a terrifying threat — that of immigrant mothers torn away from the children they love, with their families left to cope alone and broken. This is a moral outrage. The only permanent solution is for Congress to fix our broken immigration system.
Our nation desperately needs immigration reform, and make no mistake: our broken immigration system will not be repaired until Congress acts.
Last May, NETWORK’s Nuns on the Bus hit the road on a 6,800-mile bus trip across the country in support of immigration reform. As I reflect on the journey, I am more concerned than ever that the cries we heard in community after community are not being taken seriously by all in Congress. I believe that if they could hear the pain of these families as we did, their hearts would be moved to action.
What is missing in the immigration debate in Congress is a sense of urgency born out of the realities these hardworking families face. Let me share a few stories.
Angelina, an undocumented woman in North Carolina, was driving her three young children to school one morning when she was rear-ended by another driver. Being hit with small children in a car alone is enough to cause great concern, but the accident had far more disastrous consequences for Angelina and her family. Immediately, she was placed in the back of a police car and taken away; her small children were left alone with police officers who scrambled to reach another adult so the children could get to school.
Then there was Ida, who had just received her driver’s license in Georgia. Ida told us how she constantly worries about her parents when they go to work each day. She warns her mom and dad not to talk to strangers or to “call me right away if anything changes, and tell me where you are.” Her earliest childhood memories are steeped in fear; Ida knows that if her parents are “found” they can be deported. Meanwhile, her parents work in the fields picking the vegetables that feed families across America at wages that hardly support their daily needs.
Finally, we heard the story of a mother whose name I will never learn. On our trip through Arizona, we were told about a woman recently found dead in the desert. When her body was moved, her infant child was found beneath her. This mother risked everything to make a better life for her child. Death in the desert is a tragic and common experience as migrants attempt in vain to find work in our fields, build our houses, and provide daycare for our children. This is an outrage and one of the great moral failings of our time.
Last year, the Senate passed bipartisan, comprehensive reform that provides immigrants with a path to citizenship. Months later, what progress has been made? Immigration reform stalled and we are no closer to resolving this issue today than we were a year ago. People of faith and immigration activists across the country have rallied, lobbied, fasted and gotten arrested to emphasize the pain our communities are feeling. Our nation desperately needs immigration reform, and make no mistake: our broken immigration system will not be repaired until Congress acts.
Pope Francis, in his letter Joy of the Gospel, offers a path forward to Congress to resolve these issues. He states that “realities are greater than ideas.” Resolution of the immigration dilemma is in danger because the ideas of reform have become detached from realities in our nation. Angelina, Ida, the unknown mother in the desert, and many other families are being torn apart by our broken and unjust immigration system. That is the reality.
I hope we all take a moment this Mother’s Day to think about our own mothers and grandmothers from generations past who journeyed to this country in pursuit of a better life for themselves and their families. I ask that everyone stand in solidarity with immigrant mothers and children living in fear. Pope Francis tells us that it “becomes possible to build communion amid disagreement, but this can only be achieved by those great persons who are willing to go beyond the surface of the conflict and to see others in their deepest dignity.” We can honor this Mother’s Day by acknowledging the desperation of our most vulnerable mothers and imploring Congress to fix our broken immigration system. Now.