ElizabethYAV
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ElizabethYAV

My Beloved said, “My name is not complete without yours.”

And I thought: How could a human’s worth ever be such?

And God, knowing all our thoughts, and allour thoughts are just innocent steps on the

path, then addressed my heart, revealing a sublime truth to the world,

when He sang, “I am made whole by your life. Each soul, each soul completes Me.” — Hafiz

I learned the name of Juan Coronilla-Guerrero this week in a way that no one’s name should ever be learned.

Mr. Coronilla-Guerrero lived in the Austin area with his wife and two children, one of whom is a U.S. citizen, for several years. He moved here after fleeing gang violence in Central Mexico. At age 28, he was only a few years older than me, yet had seen more violence and evil than I can imagine as a white citizen. Unlike any challenge I could face, he survived the humiliating and life-threatening trek across the U.S.-Mexico border more than once, determined to live with dignity. He made life possible despite the many dangers of living without papers and no way to get them. He established life here with no option to return home.

But this place can only provide a semblance of security for immigrants, as I am seeing more clearly each day. In February and March of this year, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) let loose and wrecked havoc in the Latino neighborhoods of Austin. While ICE denies that the raids occurred, officers entered homes and workplaces without warrants, stopped cars based on racial profiling, and arrested people in swarms, in the cover of the twilight hours and hidden from the public eye. ICE targeted Austin for being a ‘Sanctuary City,’ feeling threatened by liberal city governments and re-enforcing their draconian mass deportation project.

On Friday, March 3, Mr. Coronilla-Guerrero appeared to court at the Travis County Courthouse. It was an act of courage for him to show up to court after being unjustly arrested and having an immigration order. He had faced years of discrimination in the U.S. legal system; this time he was on trial for two misdemeanors that never warranted being jailed in the first place. His family pleaded with police he not be arrested for fear he would never return.

ICE officers stood waiting for him on courthouse grounds. His family’s rent money was taken from his pocket and he never returned home. The City of Austin, while it claims to be a Sanctuary City, did not prevent him from being arrested by officers in plain clothes and no warrant. “When he was leaving, immigration agents were waiting for him and took him. He didn’t even get to say goodbye to me, or to his son because now we don’t even know where he is going to be,” his wife said following his arrest.

Juan Coronilla-Guerrero then appeared in immigration court, with one last chance at life. His wife pleaded to government officials to stop him from being torn from his family. “I told them that he couldn’t go back because they were going to kill him,” she said. He was deported in March.

On Tuesday night, I came home with my head swimming. My third week of work learning to balance many responsibilities and keeping up with the emails, news, and projects on my desk. By the time I came home around 9 P.M., I was ready to forget about work for the next twelve hours.

Then, out of habit, I checked my e-mail. I felt my breath leave my lungs as I read the subject line of a press release written by my coworkers: “Wife of a man killed after deportation to Mexico warned judge this would happen, ‘Now all of my family is in danger.’”

Mr. Coronilla-Guerrero’s wife learned that her husband’s body was found abandoned forty minutes from where he had been living with one of his sons. On September 12, four armed men came in the darkness of the night and placed guns to Mr. Coronilla-Guerrero’s head while his son slept next to him. They were jolted awake to a nightmare.

Don’t worry, my love, don’t worry.These were the last words the boy would hear from his father.

His wife now lives with the grief of losing her husband, and the trauma of a child who watched his father be ripped from his bed. She had no way to say goodbye.

And after returning to Mexico for the funeral, she may never be able to return with her children to safety.

I don’t know the Coronilla-Guerrero family. I doubt I’ll ever meet them in person, or know more than the many news articles have covered this week. I also don’t have words to console his family, except to denounce the racial profiling, criminalization, and heartless policies of the US government that deal death sentences to people just trying to live.

Yet I can’t turn away. It only feels right to grieve.

In Hafiz’s poem, Juan Castilla-Guerrero’s name is more than a headline. His name completes the holy, ineffable name.

In my daily work, I see the facts of this case and the ways we need to organize to protect people, to intervene in the life-and-death matter of immigration enforcement.

Art made by undocumented youth in Tucson

In my prayers, I see the heart of God torn open to grieve the irreparable damage that is a life taken by human evil. I see the Body re-membered when we recall his life in our memory and say, Presente. Present.

I also see the Spirit breaking into the hearts and minds of those who read about Juan Coronilla-Guerrero across the country, across the world, who know the name that God has never forgotten.

My site coordinator, Carolina, read this poem to my fellow YAV Reba and I. On a Friday morning when we shared our weekly reflection, coffee, and poem, a familiar poem struck a new resonance. Carolina reminded us that each one of us, we belong to the Body. And nothing — not life, nor death, nor anything in creation — can change that we are one in the name of God.

That measure of human worth is incomprehensible to me. It also motivates me to see each human life — no matter their immigration status, criminal record, or creed — as infinitely valuable. It only feels right to grieve when one is stolen.

One night safe in the arms of his beloved, the next shackled in the cold cell. “Don’t deport him, they’ll kill him,” his wife begged the judge looking down at her. One day alive with hunger and dreams, the next found lifeless in a river. “Don’t worry, my love, don’t worry,” he whispered to his son wrapped in covers when they pointed a gun to his head. Deported to his deathbed, only to be seen by his family in their dreams, never to wake with him again.

knows how long the road to justice is, and keeps singing the truth in our ears.

Each soul, each soul.

— -

You can contribute to the family’s YouCaring website here.

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