‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’

‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
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Belsy Garcia is 27 years old, a college graduate, and a third-year medical student at Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine. She plans to practice family medicine in underserved communities. She is a DACA recipient. Despite all she has accomplished, her life is now stained by fear and anxiety.

In a matter of days, Belsy Garcia will lose her father.

Belsy’s father, Felix, has been detained at the Stewart Detention Center in rural Georgia since mid-January. He is scheduled to be deported to Guatemala on April 4.

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On Good Friday, it is easy to see the parallels between our immigration system’s betrayal of Belsy’s family, of family unity, and Jesus’ despair on the cross.

 

Before coming to serve as chaplain in the Health Science Division of Loyola University and its hospital, I had never met a DACA student and I found their situation to be quite abstract. But meeting Belsy and others has changed me. If you suddenly see sadness and fear in a good person’s eyes, you may be changed and begin to ask why.

Felix Garcia arrived in the United States in the mid-1990s seeking asylum. He spoke no English — did not have the privilege of an interpreter or lawyer. His asylum case was denied, and rather than return to a precarious and dangerous situation, he stayed in the United States. After a raid on his workplace in 2009, he has annually checked in with his local ICE office. This year, he was detained.

For years, Belsy and her two sisters, along with Felix and their mother, his wife of 28 years, have lived in limbo. Now, their lives have been disrupted, knowing that our broken immigration system offers no secure means for their father to remain in his community, united with his family.

Felix is a solid and established member of his community. He taught himself English using a secondhand Spanish-English dictionary. He earned his GED and accounting diploma. He works as an accountant and has been self-employed, rehabilitating and selling houses in his Georgia community. In addition to Belsy’s current placement in medical school, his two other daughters are working toward undergraduate degrees with his support. He has not been a burden, but has contributed to his community.

Felix and Belsy’s is just one family that is forsaken by our broken system. In his World Day of Migrants and Refugees Statement in January of this year, Pope Francis made a clear call for family unity: “The family’s integrity must always be promoted by supporting family reunifications,” citing families as the bedrock of culture and values.

Our country was founded by migrants, such as my grandparents who came over from Ireland seeking a better life for themselves and their families. Our nation has served as a safe haven for those who have left their home countries, crucified on the cross of war, famine, political unrest, violence and unstable economies.

Belsy has shared with me that her youngest sister, who is 19 years old and a U.S. citizen, often cries, “They’re taking our dad away!”

“What can I tell her?” asks Belsy. “And what about small children in other families that are being broken apart? How can they deal with it?”

How can we, as a people, stand by and allow the foundation of our society, the nuclear family, to be forsaken?

On this Good Friday, may our country not betray families. May we maintain their integrity and the integrity they bring to our communities.

May our voices rise, like Christ’s on the cross, asking, “Why have we forsaken them?”

The Rev. Mark Henninger, S.J., Ph.D., is chaplain of the Health Sciences Division of Loyola University Chicago and of Loyola University Hospital, and emeritus professor of philosophy at Georgetown University.