Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Pastors know the research. If a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful a mother might be, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father goes to church, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers as adults, according to Promise Keepers and Baptist Press.
A faithful deacon in a Northwest Arkansas congregation who brings his five children to church every Sunday is threatened with deportation. The injustice of it all has united a congregation in his support. Staunch conservatives and liberals in this congregation are pulling together to challenge his deportation. That's one way to overcome political division these days. Put a human face on the policy.
Victor was 19 when he came to the U.S. from Mexico to see his brother on a visitor's visa 22 years ago. At the time he was building a house next to his mother's back home. Victor collected building materials for his return. His parents' home began leaking, so Victor gave them his supplies in Mexico and decided to stay here to work to support them. He found work easily and has been working continuously for the past 22 years.
His pastor says, "Victor is a carpenter, like Jesus." Volunteering with his children, Victor painted the church gym, fixed doors, handrails and other things around the church. He gave his help to the pastor and other members in their homes.
Victor has worked for the same boss for nearly a decade, serving as a foreman running a crew that builds metal buildings. His boss calls him a valuable employee and personal friend. Without status, Victor started paying taxes over 10 years ago.
Victor met the love of his life 16 years ago. He has raised her two children as his own, and three children have been born to them. The kids range from 18 to 10 years old. Each Sunday, Victor takes his family to First Christian Church in Rogers.
Though his children qualified for free or reduced lunches, Victor declined. Victor also declined public support to pay for surgery to correct a cleft palate for his son. He proudly and quietly says he can support his family without government aid.
He's humble, never seeking the limelight. Each Sunday he walks an elderly parishioner from church to her Sunday School class. He quietly carries food to the car for food pantry guests.
Victor would have liked to apply for legal residency back in 1996 when he was offered a good job and realized this was the best place to support his family. When my son went to China on a tourist visa and was offered a job, his employer filed papers and it took about two months for him to get legal work status. It's impossible to do that in the United States. It's also virtually impossible to immigrate legally to the United States from Mexico.
Here's the irony. If someone like Victor visits the United States and finds a good job like my son did in China, the only way to apply for residency is to get in trouble or to get caught as an illegal alien. That happened to Victor in 2012 -- a minor event that was dismissed. Victor has a clean record in Arkansas. But it didn't leave his immigration file. Victor applied for legal residency in 2012. In late 2017, his application was denied.
U.S. immigration law denies residency for a handful of reasons, but most cases are denied for vague terms that have not been clearly defined and are interpreted very differently by different judges: declaring that the person is not of "good moral character" or declaring that the proposed deportation would not create an "exceptional and extremely unusual hardship" upon a United States citizen. Victor was denied residency on those terms. He is appealing his denial, and his church community is supporting his appeal. If his appeal is unsuccessful, Victor will have to leave his five children, his work, his community and his church for at least 10 years before applying for return. By that time, his 10-year-old daughter would be 20. The odds are against his successful appeal.
It's hard to imagine a more anti-family law.
It is virtually impossible to immigrate legally to the United States today. Yet conscientious parents, good people, want what is best for their families. And they want to contribute to our nation. Can't we find some heart and make a path for good people like Victor to share their gifts with us?
Commentary on 05/15/2018
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