Bleed­ing hearts for law­break­ers

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. -

The Prov­i­dence Jour­nal re­cently ran a tear­jerker of a story about the ter­ri­ble trauma il­le­gal im­mi­grants are fac­ing in Rhode Is­land since Gov. Don­ald L. Carcieri’s March ex­ec­u­tive or­der re­quir­ing com­pa­nies do­ing busi­ness with the state to ver­ify the sta­tus of their em­ploy­ees and his call for state po­lice troop­ers and prison guards to be trained to en­force im­mi­gra­tion laws. The tug at your heart­strings starts right from the beginning of the ar­ti­cle:

Sev­eral weeks ago, the Rev. Jaime Gar­cia, pas­tor of St. Michael Church in South Prov­i­dence, re­ceived a call for help: a man had died at home of a heart at­tack and the fam­ily wanted a priest there for sup­port.

When Fa­ther Gar­cia ar­rived at the rented home off Hart­ford Av­enue, he found the yard fill­ing with about 35 griev­ing rel­a­tives and friends of the de­ceased Gu­atemalan, a hus­band and fa­ther and a le­gal im­mi­grant whose son was pre­par­ing to join the Army. Fa­ther Gar­cia tried to shep­herd the an­guished mourn­ers into the house so they could pray to­gether.

“But they wouldn’t go in­side,” Fa­ther Gar­cia says. Sev­eral in the group were il­le­gal im­mi­grants. “They were afraid Im­mi­gra­tion would find them. They said, ‘We’re stay­ing out here. In case the po­lice come, we’ll have a chance to run.’?”

For unity’s sake the en­tire group re­mained out­side. “I prayed with them in the back­yard,” Fa­ther Gar­cia says.

“It was so sad. They were afraid to pray to­gether in the home.”

[The first ques­tion that comes to mind upon read­ing that open­ing is, Were all 35 griev­ing Gu­ata­malan rel­a­tives liv­ing in that rental home at the same time? But the hor­rors go on:]

At St. Michael Church, Fa­ther Gar­cia says, new parish­ioners won’t reg­is­ter their ad­dresses with church of­fi­cials for fear that im­mi­gra­tion agents may en­ter the re­li­gious sanc­tu­ar­ies and de­mand records. Mass at­ten­dance is down in sev­eral His­panic parishes.

His­panic busi­nesses re­port a dras­tic drop in busi­ness, in part they say, be­cause of their cus­tomers’ fear of leav­ing their homes. [. . . ]

Fears are driv­ing il­le­gal im­mi­grants fur­ther un­der­ground, or even caus­ing some to leave the state.

“Ev­ery­body,” says Fa­ther Gar­cia, “is afraid to live.”

[Brace your­self for the tragedy of Baby New Year]:

Lo­cally there have been many flash­points.

Among them, a fed­eral raid last year on a New Bed­ford fac­tory that swept more than 320 peo­ple into de­ten­tion, and the death last Au­gust of a Brazil­ian na­tional in ICE cus­tody in Prov­i­dence. In Jan­uary, ICE agents ar­rested the fa­ther of Rhode Is­land’s first New Year’s Baby of 2008; hours later, his room­mate — an il­le­gal im­mi­grant — was found hang­ing, dead from an ap­par­ent sui­cide.

[And thus an en­tire un­der­ground com­mu­nity lives in fear]:

Dr. Pablo Ro­driguez is a prom­i­nent ob­ste­tri­cian and Latino po­lit­i­cal leader who says in the month fol­low­ing Carcieri’s ex­ec­u­tive or­der, his pa­tients skipped ap­point­ments in large num­bers. “We had no-shows of as much as 40 per­cent,” he said. “It was un­be­liev­able.”

“Peo­ple were very, very afraid to come out of their houses.” That fear was con­firmed, Ro­driguez says, by callers to his Satur­day morn­ing ra­dio show. “I lit­er­ally had peo­ple call­ing the show to ask if it is safe to go to the doc­tor, and had an­other lady call to ask whether it was safe to take the kids to school. And I had an­other lady ask if it was safe to go to Wal-Mart. Th­ese peo­ple were not be­ing face­tious.”

[The story closes with the fa­mil­iar claim that this is re­ally about all of us, with all the usual buzz­words em­ployed]:

The ex­ec­u­tive or­der “is not just some­thing that af­fects un­doc­u­mented cit­i­zens or il­le­gal aliens, how­ever they want to call them,” Ro­driguez says. “It af­fects any­one for­eign in any way, shape or form –– all Lati­nos –– and that we’re not wel­come in the State of Rhode Is­land and it’s this ‘us ver­sus them’ men­tal­ity; the lan­guage the gov­er­nor con­tin­ues to use.”

Rhode Is­lan­ders once spoke proudly of their state’s di­ver­sity, says Ro­driguez.

“And now we can’t say the same thing.”

— His­pan­ics de­plore cli­mate of fear, posted Sept. 2 at the Prov­i­dence Jour­nal’s web­site at

Their only crime was break­ing the law: Im­mi­gra­tion and Nat­u­ral­iza­tion Ser vice agents frisk a group of sus­pected il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

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