His name is called Emanuel
God with us, revealed in us
His name is called Emanuel
Emanuel and his mother
In March, God came to visit our family disguised as a two-day old baby. This child’s eyes and smile and laughter offer all of us a glimpse of grace in the midst of unspeakable heartbreak. His name is Emanuel which means “God is with us;” we call him Manny. The circumstances surrounding his arrival in our home are a sobering reminder as to why Alterna is called to offer acts of mercy, compassion, and hospitality in what are heart-wrenching realities that are now confronting vulnerable children.
Manny’s story begins in prison where he was born, his mother caught up in a senseless tragedy. Upon birth, Manny was immediately taken from her. In addition, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) began deportation proceedings. Manny’s mother’s greatest fear is that, if deported, she might never be reunited with her child. However, by taking Manny into our home and hearts, we at Alterna have ensured that her fear is never actualized and that this mother and son will one day be together again.
Manny’s story is one that is being repeated all across the country as undocumented parents and their U.S. born children are separated by deportation. Even in our small community, Manny’s story is not unique. Before he came to us, we provided refuge to five siblings whose mother was arrested for alleged identity fraud.
Leydi and her children
Leydi and her children were living in a hotel, but she longed for stability and safety for her kids. She found a roommate and an apartment. However, at LaGrange’s utilities department, she ran into a roadblock. The city requires a social security number from applicants even if it’s contrary to the spirit of the Privacy Act. With few options, this mother, who only wanted to give her children–all U.S. citizens–a home with running water, heat and electricity, now stands accused of a felony.
After learning of this family’s crisis, Charlotte and I immediately responded. Three days after Leydi’s detention, just as the Juvenile Court judge was about to grant custody of the children to DFCS, I entered the courtroom. With the consent of the shackled and shell-shocked mother, DFCS officials and the judge agreed to allow the young children to find temporary refuge in our home without state intervention.
The children, between the ages of 4 and 10, remained with us for a week. When Leydi was transferred from the jail into ICE custody, we partnered with the DFCS case manager, and our joint advocacy efforts worked! Leydi was released from ICE custody on her own recognizance and the family was reunited. Of course, this crisis is not over. The mother remains in deportation proceedings, still faces a potential two-year sentence upon conviction, and is in an unstable housing situation.
Emanuel, part two
As for Manny, he recently turned seven-months-old, and his mother is still in prison. We are waiting to find out her fate. Should she be deported, we have everything ready to reunite this U.S. born child with his mother in her native country. If she is paroled and released by ICE pending immigration court proceedings, we will offer transitional housing and support here at Alterna.
As we attempt to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly, every one of us at Alterna, from the youngest to the oldest, is being taught what it means to lead a compassionate life. For our family it has meant a lot less sleep, but a heart awakened by love for a babe named Emanuel, God with us.