Linda’s Cross (A story of “voluntary” deportation and the separation of a family)

During all six days of the pilgrimage we are carrying a cross made as a gift by immigrants in Gainesville.  However, today the cross took on extra meaning as the first person to carry it was a Mexican woman named Linda*.

Linda carries the cross
Linda carries the cross

I had heard from some of the coordinators a bit of Linda’s story and I knew that it was for women like Linda that connecting our orthodoxy (“right beliefs”) with our orthopraxis (‘right practice”) was so vitally important.  The church must step forward and directly address the externalized racial oppression being imposed on immigrants from the global South because internalized oppression is taking its toll on our migrant brothers and sisters.  The church can go a long way at healing the hearts of immigrants who are humiliated and mistreated for being “aliens” and “foreigners.” Immigrants need the transformative power of the church to help restore their damaged identity as children of God.  And Linda’s vulnerability has reinforced my belief that the church must be the conscience of America on matters of immigration and the healer of immigrants’ damaged souls.


Linda is an unlicenseable driver from Mexico.  Married with three children, including a medically fragile, U.S.-born child, the worst crime Linda ever committed was driving without a license and then being the victim of an auto accident.  That’s right she is a “criminal”-victim (how’s that for an oxymoron).

One afternoon, while Linda was driving, she was rear ended by a distracted but licensed driver.  The other driver was issued a ticket for following too closely but Linda found herself arrested, fingerprinted, strip searched and detained for weeks in three separate jails or detention centers in what she described as deplorable conditions.  And her children were punished by having their mother forcibly removed from their home during that absence.

Now, Linda has received a 100-day notice to remove herself from the United States of America.  Yes, she must self-deport or face even harsher consequences.

Linda shares her heartbreaking story of tragedy and resilience.
Linda shares her heartbreaking story of tragedy and resilience.

As Linda shared her story the crowd of 400 pilgrims was dead silent.  Tears welled up in Linda’s eyes but not in hers alone.  She continued to share her excruciating dilemma.  What should Linda do?  Self-deport without her children and husband?  Should all of them self-deport?  Including the U.S. citizen child?  The U.S.-born son is medically fragile and requires medical equipment the humble family would not be able to afford in Mexico.  Her husband’s earning potential is likely ten times greater in the United States and her son likely receives governmental assistance for his chronic medical condition.  Should she separate siblings from each other and the healthy children from their father? 


Linda doesn’t know what path she and her family will choose.

After Linda finished sharing her testimony, I asked every U.S. citizen in the crowd to surround Linda and to engulf her in prayers.  I specifically asked for U.S. citizens to surround her in love because our hands are not clean.  It is our government who we the people are allowing to engage in the unholy act of family separation. 

Our country was not blessed when we separated slave children from slave parents.  Our country was not blessed when we separated Native families from their land and each other.  Our country will not be blessed by separating Linda from her medically fragile American child or from the rest of her nuclear family.  And Americans must repent of our silence and complicity in such forms of oppression.



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