“How would you want to be treated if you were in their situation?”

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco sides with father of three following his detention by immigration authorities

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone stands with Yadira Mejia outside the Sansome Federal Building in San Francisco Nov. 21. Her husband, Hugo, had been detained for about six months in his fight against deportation, but he was released from detention on a $15,000 bond that same day. (Credit: CNS photo/Valerie Schmalz, Catholic San Francisco.)

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco asked the United States to take its temperature as a society after he got personally involved in the detention case of an immigrant in the country illegally.

In May, Hugo Mejia, 37, and a co-worker were handcuffed by federal immigration officials when they reported for work at a construction site at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, about 45 minutes by car from their homes.

After being taken into custody, “Mejia (was) held 100 miles away from his home in San Rafael” at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in Elk Grove, Cordileone said in an op-ed essay published Nov. 20 – the day of Mejia’s immigration hearing – in the San Francisco Chronicle.

“As I visited and prayed with Mejia’s family, their anguish at the separation was palpable – but so was their dignity and the power of their faith in the face of such great hardship,” the archbishop wrote.

During the hearing, a judge said Mejia, 37, could be freed on bond as his case wound its way through immigration court. The co-worker, Rodrigo Nunez, was not as lucky; he was deported in August.

As Mejia’s fate hung in the balance, the archbishop asked, “How should our society treat Mejia, and millions of other sisters and brothers like him? How would you want to be treated if you were in their situation?

“In a virtuous society – that is, one whose political, social and economic institutions allow all of its members to flourish – the answer to both questions is the same. Will we be such a virtuous society?

“The decision is now before us. The character of our country will be defined by our answer.”

Cordileone also asked the question uttered by Cain in response to God in the Book of Genesis: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

“An affirmative answer means caring for people who are suffering, a core value shared across faith traditions and points of view,” the archbishop said. “Anything less is not fully human, and it is the personal encounter that always humanizes what can otherwise remain distant and abstract.”

In short, he added, “we are all our brother’s and sister’s keepers. This is simply another way of stating the golden rule, an equally universal ethical principle.”

At Mejia’s hearing, Cordileone said, “the possibility that the pain of the Mejia family could be eased brings hope to many of us who have raised our voices for Mejia’s release. Indeed, our country has still not created a workable immigration process for people like Mejia, whose labor nevertheless advances industries that have created great wealth.”

The father of three, Mejia has been in the United States for 16 years. Neither he nor Nunez had criminal records, but Mejia had a decade-old removal order that prompted immigration police to apprehend him.

Full story at Crux.

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  1. Those who have broken immigration laws of the United States should be grateful just to be deported! Other nations are not as nice, and folks like Mr. Mejia are often heavily fined, abused, and imprisoned for long periods when they disregard sovereignty laws.

    You can lace the argument with gushing emotion but immigration laws are completely legitimate and should be respected. Americans should respect this aspect of law enforcement and side with their country rather than those who disrespect her rules.

  2. Apparently, their countries of origin are not virtuous societies and America is expected to be the dumping ground for such countries.

  3. Elizabeth M. says:

    As much as I feel compassion for him and his family I still also feel for those who are standing on line waiting to come in. I have many friends from other countries who have come to this country legally and they resent this. The question remains about why he did not do it legally. 16 years is a long time. I agree that we should have a workable working visa program ~ that is only fair. But is it fair to jump ahead of others who are waiting? Then the other question is, if he is from Mexico, why is Mexico is such a bad condition that its citizens are fleeing from there. After all Mexico is a naturally rich country. I know there is corruption but don’t the people have a responsibility in dealing with this? Again, Mexico doesn’t…

  4. John Patrick says:

    Support of lawbreakers is a disgrace

  5. Leroy Sheckelstein says:

    Et tu, Salvatore?

  6. It is one thing to take in those who have Judeo Christian values and quite another thing to take in those who hate us and seek to do us harm. Without borders and limits on immigration that is impossible. The only foreign country I have even been to is Mexico. I crossed the border legally, came back legally. I did not take anyone or anything across illegally, did not bring anyone nor anything back illegally. I tried to obey their laws while there, dressed aprropriately (no shorts or vulgar attire). No illegal drugs nor any drunkeness.

  7. and any car I was in had car insurance that covered us in Mexico.

  8. Trumpovsky says:

    Send them back to their country of origin and they can reapply for entry to the USA.

  9. Innominato says:

    Recently, in Paris I met a person from Turkey working as a tailor. He would love to come into the U.S. by walking across the border as did Mejia (illegaly) and as do all the other Hispanics, Latinos, Chicanos, OTMs, La Raza, Central Americans. Unfortunately, he cannot walk across the Atlantic Ocean, or, for that matter swim across. How many other citizens throughout the world would love to come to the U.S. illegaly, but unfortunately they must abide by our legal immigration laws. If they could come into the U.S., we would then have DIVERSITY again, particularly in Southern California or the rural communities of Northern California where the crime rate has quadrupled due to illegals from below the border. Nevertheless, My heart goes…

  10. Does anyone know the meaning of the hamsa around Yadira Mejia’s neck?

    • It’s a non-Christian amulet favored in America by “spiritual not religious” people. That she wore it in the presence of the Archbishop, while appealing for his help, shows little respect for his Catholic office. Another example of folks wanting the social justice rather than the spiritual side of the Church. “Give me what I want then I’m done with you” – selfish selfish.

      • It was orignally the symbol of the goddess Tanit, an amulet forbiden to the Children of Israel . Over and over in the Old Testament the prophets of God railed against such things. Some Jewish women took it up as the Hand of Mariam (sister of Moses and Aaron) Perhaps they have put different wording on it, but I want the medal of the Woman who crushes the serpent or the St. Benedict one to ward off evil.

      • The name “Tanit” means serpent or sepent lady, BTW.

      • I should not have been so snarky about the lady’s necklace. Perhaps some relative or friend gave it to her, and she did not know what it meant or did not want to offend them. It is used by Jewish women as the Hand of Miriam, by Muslim women as the Hand of Fatima and now some Christian women use it as the Hand of Mary, but some priests are telling Christian women not to use it. It seems to be a fad among the Hollywood celebrities.

  11. As if it could happen to anyone…
    These things don’t just happen. Entering a country illegally is a very poor choice with very serious consequences.

  12. If this logic is the case, what then is the point of RCIA?
    Why not let anyone walk up and receive Our Lord? Why respect THOSE rules?
    Wouldn’t, by this logic [“How would you like to be treated”] it be “rude” to refuse people Holy Communion?
    No, sorry, someone fell for the mistake that “rule-breaking” is “merciful.”
    Watch out! All that bit from Sacred Scripture about teaching little ones to stumble and millstones…

  13. Illegals walking onto a military base get arrested. This is news? This is unexpected?

    As for the talk about the Golden Rule: Believe me, if I was illegally in another country I wouldn’t dream to go aboard one of their military bases. Talk about twisting the lion’s tail! I would have expected to be shot, not arrested!

  14. They aren’t sending them to Siberia. They are sending them to their home.

  15. How would you want to be treated if you were in their situation? The only way I would be in their situation is if my husband forced me to come to this country illegally. And I would be nervous every day because I am the kind of person who can’t stand doing something wrong and I would be glad if we got sent back because it would be such a relief. I think the bishop is trying to be compassionate but to me, the compassionate thing would be to help them go home and petition to come in legally. They could help them get set up down there and help them co-ordinate with people in the States. I feel so sorry for their kids living in this situation but the answer is to make it right, not keep doing wrong and hope the consequences don’t catch…

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