‘Through eyes that have cried’

Lawmakers need compassion for immigrants

“Hay muchas cosas que sólo pueden ser vistas a través de ojos que han llorado.”

“There are some things that can only be seen through eyes that have cried.”

This quote, attributed to Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, who was assassinated while celebrating Mass in 1980, describes the life experiences of many people on the fringes of society. Those forced to flee their homelands due to violence or natural disasters can truly relate to these words.

This month, the church places a special focus on migrants and refugees who have seen things through eyes moist with tears. Here in the United States, National Migration Week was observed Jan. 7-13. At the Vatican, Pope Francis celebrated World Day of Migrants and Refugees on Jan. 14.

In the past year, migrants and refugees living in the United States have experienced many trials. Following the 2016 presidential election, laws aimed at closing doors to immigrants were introduced. Federal courts have contested the refugee bans because they prevent family unification and are aimed at predominantly Muslim countries.

More recently, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced last November that some 50,000 Haitians living in the United States under temporary protected status (TPS) will have their status canceled in July 2019 and must return to Haiti. They were granted TPS following Haiti’s 2010 earthquake.

On Jan. 8, DHS announced the termination of TPS for Salvadorans living in the United States. Some 200,000 Salvadorans, who received TPS status following a major earthquake in El Salvador in 2001, will lose their status in September 2019.

The TPS program was created by Congress through the Immigration Act of 1990. It is a provisional humanitarian relief program that protects foreign nationals in the U.S. whose homelands faced war, natural disasters and other extraordinary situations. The Catholic Legal Immigration Network believes El Salvador “remains unable to adequately handle the safe return” of so many people.

“Ending TPS for Salvadorans living in the U.S. … would put them at risk of food, water and housing insecurity, violence at the hands of gangs and further destabilize the economies of the U.S. and El Salvador,” said the immigration network.

Another group of immigrants, the largest facing mass deportation, are the “Dreamers.” An estimated 800,000 young adults, who are here legally through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, may face deportation if Congress does not extend DACA. An estimated 80 percent of them are from Mexico.

Last Sunday, President Trump tweeted that the DACA program is “probably dead.”

The push to build walls against and close doors to immigrants is wrong. It not only offends basic tenets of our Christian faith, it prevents us from better understanding the trials and challenges of those who have lived “through eyes that have cried.”

In this week’s paper, Bishop David Ricken writes about a meeting with five young women who are DACA recipients. Taking an opportunity to sit down and listen to the stories of immigrants, whose eyes surely have wept, is an example to lawmakers of how they should approach decisions that impact the lives of not only refugees and immigrants, but their families and communities.

May we all take to heart the words of Archbishop Romero, to be more open and giving to others who have suffered. For it is only through personal witness that we may glimpse what they have seen, “through eyes that have cried.”