Family matters: Fear lingers in wake of Supreme Court SB 1070 decision

Miguel Andujo comforts his daughter Gema. She and her sisters live in constant fear of their parents being deported. (J.D. Long-Garcia/CATHOLIC SUN)

His five daughters don’t like it when he goes out. Juventino Franco is an undocumented immigrant. His family lives in constant fear of his deportation.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down most of Arizona’s controversial crackdown measure, SB 1070, in a June 25 decision. Yet the so-called “show me your papers” provision remains.

This provision requires local law enforcement to determine the legal status of anyone stopped, detained or arrested if there is reasonable suspicion that the person is in the United States unlawfully.

“In a way, nothing’s changed,” said Franco, who’s been in the country since 1997. “A policeman would have asked for my papers before because I didn’t have a license.”

“We’re ready to fight this, but it’s sad for our children,” said Gricelda Garcia, mother of Franco’s children and his common-law wife. They haven’t gotten married because it would mean re-filing pending immigration paperwork.

Their 10 and 11-year-old daughters are particularly aware of the threat, knowing classmates whose parents have been deported. When their father is out, they constantly ask, “Is papi coming back soon?”

Franco’s residency request is pending review, but if it’s granted, he’s afraid he won’t be able to afford the fee. Garcia received her residency last month. The process took 21 years. She petitioned through her father, who is a legal resident, and who brought her into the United States when Garcia was 3.

Garcia’s brother, Jaime, is currently being detained while his case is reviewed. Her brother entered the country when he was 2, Garcia said.

“His son cries himself to sleep,” Garcia said, adding that her nephew keeps a photo of her brother under his pillow. “Children cry every night because they miss their parents.”

Human dignity

The Arizona bishops were quick to respond to the decision, issuing a statement through the Arizona Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s four Catholic dioceses.

They said the remaining provision “might separate families, create the possibility of racial profiling even if unintended by the law, heighten fear in the immigrant community, jeopardize community policing, and not fix the federal immigration policy, which many across the political spectrum have said is broken.”

In her statement, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer called the Supreme Court decision a “victory for the rule of law” and said law enforcement officers would not racially profile those they encounter.

“Law enforcement will be held accountable should this statute be misused in a fashion that violates an individual’s civil rights,” she said, adding that the safety of Arizonans was a chief concern.

In an interview with The Catholic Sun, Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares said the U.S. bishops also recognize the urgent need for the United States to defend its borders. While there is “reason to rejoice” that much of the SB 1070 was struck down, “our work isn’t over,” he said.

Security, the dignity of the human person, the unity of the family and promotion of comprehensive immigration reform are at the heart of the Church’s position on immigration, Bishop Nevares said.

Ron Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, said time will tell what lasting impact SB 1070 will have on the community.

“The one thing for certain is that we’re going to see lawsuits in the future and challenges to SB 1070,” he said. “We have to see how it’s going to be implemented.”

Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration, said the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down most of the law “reaffirms the strong role of the federal government in regulating immigration.”

“Humane enforcement of our nation’s laws are part of any solution,” he said, “but enforcement by itself, unjustly administered, only leads to abuses and family breakdown.”

‘Very much afraid’

Joel Navarette, a parishioner at St. Augustine and a former youth leader, said young Catholics are concerned about what will happen to their parents.

President Barack Obama recently announced a policy halting deportations of undocumented young adults brought to the United States as minors. It has relieved some of the tension, Navarette said.

“The young adults don’t fear for themselves because they can’t be deported,” he said. “But older Catholics — their parents — are very much afraid.”

Jennifer Andujo, 13, fears for both her mother and father.

“Sometimes I cry when my mom and dad leave in the morning,” she said. “What if they don’t come back? What are we going to do?”

Her parents brought her and her two sisters into the United States more than 10 years ago on tourist visas. Those visas have since expired.

“My friend’s mother got deported when she was going to California,” Jennifer said. Her friend has since moved back to Mexico with her father and her siblings.

Jennifer’s younger sister, Gema, 11, said she sometimes has nightmares that her parents will be deported. Gema doesn’t feel comfortable speaking in Spanish and none of the children want to return to Mexico.

Their mother, Margarita Jaquez said their fears and hopes are for their children. They don’t want to leave them alone — they moved here to provide a better future for them. “They don’t know anything about Mexico,” Margarita said of her children.

Their father, Miguel Andujo, said they have a skeleton action plan in case one or both of the parents get deported. The children know whom  to call and where to stay.

Both Miguel and Margarita attended classes and know that, for example, a Mexican passport is an acceptable form of identification in their area. They need only provide the police with their name. After that, they can keep silent and wait to speak with their lawyer.

Undocumented immigrants also have to be vigilant against so-called legal assitants that promise legal status, according to Joe Rubio, lead organizer for the Valley Interfaith Project. Some try to take advantage of the Obama administration’s  new policy toward undocumented young adults brought to the United States as minors — which has yet to be clearly defined, he said.

Local police will enforce SB 1070 differently from one town to the next, Rubio said. So the exact implementation of the “show me your papers” provision is unknown.

“It’s going to be an act of courage to report crimes,” he said. Much domestic  abuse, drug dealing and gang activity has gone unreported in the undocumented community. Victims and witnesses fear their own deportation.

“Police don’t like that either,” Rubio said. “It has to be a partnership.”

Valley Interfaith Project organizes immigration classes at parishes throughout the Phoenix Diocese to help undocumented immigrants protect themselves and know their rights in case they are stopped by police.

“We pray to God that this won’t happen,” Miguel said. “When I leave the house in the morning, only God knows if I’ll return. But I have to keep going out because I need to work.”

Miguel works in construction while his wife picks up jobs where she can cleaning offices or houses. Work has been slow since employer sanction laws took effect, they said. The family has had to stay with friends — moving from house to house, sometimes in the middle of a school year.

“Faith is the last thing that one loses,” Miguel said. “We must wait and see what comes next.”

Franco, father of five daughters with another on the way, hasn’t had steady work in years.

“We came here because of need,” he said. “We’d go back to Mexico if only we’d be assured of work.”

Garcia, who serves as a catechist at St. Louis the King Parish, said many children are without one or both of their parents. She and Franco regularly lead the family in rosaries and novenas.

“The Holy Family were also immigrants and they were also persecuted,” Garcia said. “So we ask la Virgen to intercede for us. She understands what we’re going through.”