Migrants should know us “by our love”

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It’s been almost two weeks since a tractor-trailer full of bodies was discovered on a long, desolate stretch of Quintana Road on the southwest side near Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.

This is where 53 human beings died of immense heat and inhumanity, where a makeshift memorial was erected and where hundreds of water bottles were placed next to candles and crosses.

For some, just enough time has passed to forget one tragedy and move on to the next. While many people showed compassion for those who suffered, others could not.

Among the latter was one person who took to social media to express his indifference to those crossing the border illegally.

You do the crime, you do the time.

I guess cruelty was not meant to apply to children. Victims identified so far include eight teenagers, one of whom is just 13 years old.

J. Antonio Fernandez, president and CEO of Catholic Charities, cannot understand the lack of empathy. His mission in life is to alleviate suffering, and he helped lead the agency’s response to the June 27 tractor-trailer tragedy.

The charitable arm of the Archdiocese of San Antonio provides aid to people in 19 counties, whether they are Catholic or not, whether or not they have a religious tradition.

This week, Catholic Charities provided shelter and support to several survivors of the human trafficking incident.

Two of them are now heading north to reunite with relatives. A third was recovering at a hotel and another will remain in San Antonio while her brother recovers at a local hospital.

A young Guatemalan named Marvin was supposed to leave San Antonio for San Francisco this week, but not before the agency celebrates his birthday.

Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller was there, as well as Mayor Ron Nirenberg.

The cake was served. “Happy Birthday” was sung.

Fernandez couldn’t help but think of another song that fills so many places of worship around the world, including in his native Spain.

“They will know that we are Christians by our love.”

It is a hymn inspired by the Gospels and the books of Romans, Galatians and Hebrews, among others.

Fernandez sometimes wonders how believers experience these words in the midst of so much hatred and division. He wonders what love we show to the least of us, in our everyday life and in the politics of our nation.

He wonders if migrants can recognize us “by our love”.

More equitable immigration and asylum policies would help discourage people from taking the desperate step of getting into a trailer to be transported through Texas in unbearable heat, without air conditioning, ventilation or water.

“We, as a country, can find solutions that equitably allow our fellow human beings in neighboring countries to work at jobs that are not filled by local talent,” Fernandez wrote in an essay he shared with me Friday.

Surely there is “a win-win solution” to matching those who need workers with those who need jobs, he said.

This week, the City of San Antonio opened a Migrant Resource Center on San Pedro Avenue to organize assistance for people who have been released by immigration authorities after being processed and who have been allowed to travel to the United States to live with relatives or sponsors as they pursue their asylum claims.

Fernandez said Catholic Charities will provide staff to the Migrant Resource Center.

The agency is dealing with many other ongoing emergencies, including food insecurity. The need has increased, he says.

The agency also provides advice, including in Uvalde, where on May 24 an 18-year-old entered an elementary school armed with a high-powered rifle and shot and killed 21 people, including 19 children.

The agency’s Cool Project is also underway and no longer has a fan base for seniors. It takes about 1,000 this month.

Then there is hurricane season. It’s approaching, so the agency is preparing to respond with food, water, clothing and a mobile unit that can travel to a disaster site and provide access to showers, washing machines and dryers. laundry.

Marvin, the Guatemalan who escaped alive from the tractor-trailer, told Fernandez he survived by drinking his own sweat, knocking it out of his shirt. Fernandez isn’t sure that’s literally true. “Psychologically, that’s how he thinks he survived.”

Physically, Marvin is fine, Fernandez said. But has trouble sleeping. Recovering from such an ordeal could take a lifetime.

Fernandez hopes that wWhen a small group of San Antonians sang “Happy Birthday” to him, Marvin recognized at least some of us by our love.

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