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.”


  1. A few months ago a girl in a class room I was working, she was maybe 13 or 14 years old, was silently crying in the back of the room. I was informed by other kids that she was frightened that her parents were going to be captured late at night at home by the Glendale PD and sent back to Mexico. So wanting to calm her down knowing that a fear like that could drive a kid or anyone crazy, I remember asking her a few questions. I remember her saying that her parents went to one of our local parishes for Mass on Sundays, they had labor-type jobs but I don’t remember specifically, but this I do remember: She said her parents did not drink, take drugs, and they weren’t the type to go out and party late on weekend nights. I tried to assure her she didn’t have too much to worry about because statistically I don’t know the numbers, but cops, I.C.E., and border patrol aren’t knocking on doors at night with no ‘probable cause’.

    One thing that bothered me in the article “Family Matters” was, “Mother of Franco’s children and his ‘common-law wife.’ They haven’t gotten married because it would mean re-filing pending immigration paperwork.” Why does the Catholic Church need government paper work to give the Holy Sacraments? Who does the Church answer to? Christ or Caesar?

    Personally, I don’t think most Americans or police are interested, have the energy, or even care about hunting out illegal aliens and turning them in. But this is the problem. Politicians and the bishops are silent and maybe in fear, I don’t know. At the border many decent and even holy people come across to find a better life than the nightmare that’s going on South of us. But also coming across are horrid and sadistic criminals, MS-13, Los Zetas, Sinaloa Cartel, Tijuana Cartel, La Familia Michoacana, and yes, even Al Qaida. They hide in the barrios and blend in and terrorize the decent and good ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ folks that just want to work and take care of their families.

    Quickly, this is what the Church Bishops should do: 1. Give the Sacraments to foreigners and don’t wait for paper work because they are living in sin! 2. Preach to the masses about the evil of drugs. 3. Preach and evangelize to the gangs and masses about the evil cult of gangs. 4. Communicate to the bishops in Mexico and the other Latin countries to push their nation’s leaders to get their own house in order.

    There are other things our Church leaders can do, and many things our government can do but I’ll save that for another time.

    • “One thing that bothered me in the article “Family Matters” was, “Mother of Franco’s children and his ‘common-law wife.’ They haven’t gotten married because it would mean re-filing pending immigration paperwork.” Why does the Catholic Church need government paper work to give the Holy Sacraments? Who does the Church answer to? Christ or Caesar?”

      That bothered me too, but not for the reason you present. Everyone must provide a marriage license before the Church will allow you to receive the sacrament of matrimony because there are marriage laws in every state one must abide by. Marriage laws are good. These people are just as accountable to abide by the laws. Why does everyone else have to go through the proper legal channels and these people don’t? I am really confused. And does anyone see that since they are not married legally, the church sees this as a grave sin??? Hello?? What is going on here??

  2. The answer to this situation rests on the shoulders of the legal citizens of AZ; especially those who are Hispanic. Of course, uniting the American Hispanic Citizens in AZ IS the hard part. (Too often, the last one in wants to be the last one in.)
    Yet, if we suppose a sense of unanimity, the system of asking for papers could be brought to a dead stand still. Simply refuse to show papers. As a citizen you cannot be deported. They can arrest you, I guess. In fact that is exactly the point. Arrest after arrest after arrest will clog the courts. Refusing to pay any associated fine of money or community time will bring the system to a halt.
    The citizens of AZ and any who visit need to be committed. There is a role for Non-Hispanics as well. Simply refuse to show papers, too. There is obviously no rational reason for the police to assume you are not a citizen, but give them one. Talk with an accent or do not talk at all.
    Civil disobedience is the strongest tool in a democracy. Massive unrest will cut deeply into the economy. Money talks.
    It is the will to stand for the marginalized that needs to be encouraged. With that, victory is just a head by a few hard steps

  3. One can have empathy for the children of those who have been deported. There are many programs available for people to take advantage of to become legal in this country.

    I’m not just speaking about those who come from south of the border but all who are here illegally; those whose visas have expired, [this would require INS to carefully monitor those who have come to this country using the various forms of the visa system.]those who come here to get an education from afar and who now have to return home, etc. When one obtains a visa to visit another country for pleasure, business, or to advance their education, those countries will be checking to make sure that the visitor leaves when their visa has expired and if one is caught working on a visitor visa, they will be detained by the authority.

  4. What is this?? “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.” Isn’t this a concern for a Catholic News story??


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