Gerardo was born in Mexico in 1991 and brought here at age 3 from Mexico by his mother. Having little memory of his native land, he can speak and understand Spanish, but cannot write it. Gerardo has three younger sisters, one undocumented and two born here. His stepfather was deported several years ago and Gerardo became the man of the house. His mother had to leave for work early, so he woke his sisters for school, prepared their breakfast, and went to school meetings with his sisters. He also translated for his mother, paid the bills, and, according to him, has not been without work himself for more than 3 days since he graduated. At the same time, he made good grades all the way through school.
Recently I visited his home. It is a small apartment with a living room that seems large because it contains only one small, used sofa and a small table.
A couple of weeks ago, Gerardo, who does not drive because his family cannot afford a car (and he cannot get a license anyway), went to Northeast Plaza by bus to help his mother get the money to pay the rent. At Goodwill, an older gentleman he had become acquainted with offered Gerardo a ride home. He accepted. On the way the gentleman began to talk and touch Gerardo suggestively. He resisted, and, as soon as they stopped at a gas station, Gerardo called police.
The county police person who came did not believe Gerardo. The gentleman was a smooth talker and soon convinced the policeman, who believed the gentleman’s story over Gerardo. Seeing how this was going, Gerardo became afraid and gave a false name. The policeman then arrested Gerardo for giving a false name and a false report.
Although the charges have been canceled, Gerardo was put on “Immigration Hold.” Now, two weeks later, Gerardo is at the Stewart Detention Center in south Georgia ready to be deported. In the meantime, I contacted a very good immigration lawyer who has agreed to represent him. Gerardo’s mother and a couple of church friends have paid a retainer and the attorney agreed to a fee less than his standard because of the family’s poverty.
There is nothing legally that can be done to help Gerardo, but if he were married and had an American-born child, that would make him eligible for a resident’s card. The only thing in Gerardo’s favor is that he has lived here more than 10 years. It has been my privilege to help gather evidence of the 17 years he has lived here.
This weekend please remember young Gerardo, afraid, anxious, and desperate. He worries about his family, sending word to his mother about the next bills to be paid. He does not know the full dangers he would be in if dropped in Matamoros and had to find his way somehow to family he doesn’t even know and, perhaps, can’t find in Mexico. He knows very little about the country. In fact, if he is deported, Gerardo has a high chance of being killed there by thugs who look to gain a few U.S. dollars. If he survives, there is no ‘line’ for him to ‘stand’ in to get back to the U.S. Having an attorney is his only chance to prevent immediate deportation.
Our hope is in the Lord, but, is there hope for Atlanta? For Gerardo? In the community we serve, immigrants feel very misunderstood; too afraid, they will not go to the police when there is a problem. When I lived in Mexico, the people there would also not go to the police. Déjà vu.
For Gerardo, the most any of us can do is seek strong leaders who will stand up for the rights of immigrants. They are people who work hard, study and seek to be productive citizens but are caught in a legal system that does not allow them many means of becoming citizens. As Christians, it is our responsibility to stand behind those who suffer injustice, so that we may seek better rights for our neighbors who give so much to our communities.
Tim Campbell served for 12 years as a missionary among the poor in Mexico City and has worked with Latino immigrants in Atlanta for the past 15 years. He is presently serving as director with Hope for Atlanta. Tim has a Business degree and Bible degree from Bryan College in Dayton, TN and studied at the Center for Urban Theological Studies at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, PA.
Please note that Gerardo’s name has been changed to protect his privacy.
Please note that the views expressed do not necessarily represent those of everyone associated with G92 or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.
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