What I Saw in Roma, Texas

So a week or so ago, I was asked down to Roma, Texas by Fr. James Erving, OMI.  His parish was putting on a conference for the youth he serves there in Starr County (the poorest county in Texas).  Fr. Erving is a gung ho priest who loves his people fiercely.  His people are Latino Catholics who love Jesus and the Church deeply and who celebrate that love joyously.  Being around them was a tonic for the soul.

I got into Roma late Friday afternoon after a night of no sleep.  So I was pretty exhausted Friday night.  But I was able to get in a very fruitful confession and make a bit of headway in the whole “I am a sinful jerk” battle.  It made Saturday a much happier experience than it might have otherwise been since I found myself among people whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.  Sleep also helped.

Most of the day consisted of them evangelizing me, reminding me that the point of the faith is to rejoice in the love of God.  A couple of times, they graciously put up with me blathering stuff at them (I was there to talk about the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes).  But mostly they ministered to me just by being who they are.  I was a stranger among them and they treated me like a brother.  A lovely time.

Back at the parish, meanwhile, there were two terrified women staying in a building on the grounds.  They were Honduran and had managed to escape protection racket gangs back who took half their income and threatened to kill them and their kids if they did not pony up.  Using money (typically $6000 or so) they had scraped together with endless toil, they had hired “coyotes” to get them through Mexico to the border. (Such arrangements frequently feature a side order of rape.)  They had been dumped, with six other women, for a week without money, food, or water, in a motel in Mexico.  Thankfully, the motel owner understood their plight and blamed the coyote and not them.  He prevailed upon him to fetch them and get them to the border.

The parish (Our Lady of Refuge) is literally a stone’s throw from the Rio Grande.  The women (who did not know each other till they were tumbled together by their torturous journey) had managed to get as far as OLOR.  But the coyote who was supposed to meet them on this side of the border never showed.  He basically just took the money and ran.  Now the women were petrified they would be sent back and killed.  They had absolutely nothing, spoke no English, and had not one clue what to do next.

The next leg of their journey (to family in VA and Los Angeles) would have consisted of avoiding the Soviet checkpoints set up to protect our great nation from the threat of Honduran women who just want to save their children from poverty and murder while working to build a life for themselves and going to Mass.   This threat is much like the other 11 million people whose labor we already exploit and benefit from when we aren’t sending them to their doom.  To avoid those checkpoints basically involved crawling through thorns and cacti and getting sliced up for 14 miles of desert of so. (Fr. Erving wondered aloud how many bodies are out in that desert.) At present, however, they were stuck, trembling and terrified, with no options.  Fr. Erving could give them sanctuary, food and water, but that was about it.

Fr. Erving asked, before I left, that I tell their story because it’s a story that gets played out again and again at his parish and at countless other parishes.

When I got back, he sent me word that–somehow or other–somebody had managed to make arrangements to get them to their respective destinations.  So thanks be to God for that.  Presumably the next stage is to get the rest of their families safely away from the gangs.

“But that’s illegal!”

Yeah.  Don’t care.  All “illegal” means here is that some paperwork for Caesar’s bean counters hasn’t been filled out.  The higher law is that innocents not be killed.  “Inasmuch as you did it to the least  of these, you did it to me.”

Aside from Fr. Erving’s letter about the escape of the Honduran women to safety, I also got a letter from the Heritage Foundation when I got back.  Printed on the front was the question “Should we deny citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants born on our soil?”  Just to instruct me on the Correct Conservative Position on this, the Heritage Foundation helpfully printed a big arrow pointing to the word “YES”.

I threw it into the garbage after tearing it in half.  Screw you, Heritage Foundation.  Welcome to America, ladies.  May you and your children find safe harbor here in the bosom of Our Lady of Refuge.

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