Why I Support Immigration Reform

It’s time to bring immigrant workers out of the shadows. It’s time to treat them like human beings and offer a path to citizenship. It’s time to take care of our laborers and their families, not throw them in jail and let their kids suffer and die.

by Jan Steckel, MD

Maria was our housekeeper from Guatemala when I was small. She had a lovely laugh and never got mad at my brother and me. She fed us and bathed us, and we loved her.

When I was five years old, I cut the telephone line with my blunt safety scissors because she was talking on it, and I wanted her attention. When she realized what I had done, she just cracked up.

One day, two men in suits came to the door and asked for Maria. My mom said that she wasn’t there, but the men came in anyway. They were from Immigration. A housekeeper down the street was jealous of Maria over a man and had tipped off La Migra that she didn’t have a green card. The men took Maria away.

My mother went to visit Maria in the jail downtown. Maria was crying, saying she was in a jail cell with prostitutes and women who scared her. She kept saying that she was a good girl, that all she wanted to do was support her family in Guatemala. My mother couldn’t do anything for her and came back very upset.

Maria disappeared after that. I missed her. We got another housekeeper. Six months later, Maria came back to visit with a stuffed donkey from Guatemala for my little brother. My mother couldn’t take her back because of the new housekeeper, but she said she would give her a reference for work with another family.

Our current policy isn’t keeping people out. It’s just disrupting lives. I was partly raised by Latin American housekeepers, and I know my state, California, wouldn’t run without undocumented workers.

When I grew up, I became a pediatrician and took care of Spanish-speaking children, including children of field-workers, housekeepers, gardeners, restaurant staff, and all the other laborers on whom our economy depends.

Reylla Denis Ferraz Da Silva, her husband Fabricio, and baby Enzo Gabriel. Reylla was picked up for deportation in San Francisco, and was released as a result of community protest. David Bacon photo

 

I’ve seen a little girl who couldn’t get antibiotics for a bad dental infection because she wasn’t born in this country. I’ve seen a little boy whose appendix burst because he didn’t have medical insurance and the university hospital sent him away. I’ve even seen an infant die because his Spanish-speaking parents couldn’t get access to medical care in the richest country on earth.

It’s time to bring immigrant workers out of the shadows. It’s time to treat them like human beings and offer a path to citizenship. It’s time to take care of our laborers and their families, not throw them in jail and let their kids suffer and die.

A Life Consecrated to Compassion and Justice

On the bleak streets of the Tenderloin, a sister took a stand against inhumanity. Her solidarity was inspired by the beatitudes and consecrated to the poor.

The Invisible Natural Cathedral of People’s Park

Builders, please go away. Allow the beauty of an Invisible Natural Cathedral to remain, a living shrine of open space that gives refuge to all people.

Street Spirit Interview with Sister Bernie Galvin

This atrocity was happening in a very wealthy city. It was happening right under our noses. It was very visible. And there was not the united voice of the faith community speaking out. That was the spark of Religious Witness. From that moment, I knew what I had to do.

Interview with Sister Bernie Galvin, Part Two

“What’s forming in my mind is Jesus in the temple when he became angry at the unjust and very exclusive systems of society. That is the very reason that there are the poor and the marginalized. It is not enough just to provide food, clothing and housing.”

‘Such Is the Magic and Spirit of People’s Park’

The mayor has no understanding of the awful defeat the loss of People’s Park would be. No comprehension of the cost in lives and the sacrifices people have made for the Park’s ideals. So many still find it a refuge in a country needing a political and spiritual overhaul.

I Remember Who I Am

“And Now Where?” Lithograph by Rockwell Kent

By and by, I calm down. I meditate. I pray. It is a beautiful day. The sun is setting. I weave my way toward the spot where I sleep, where nobody knows where to find me. I look to the stars, and say my prayers to the God who believes in Me.