By Joyce Duriga
Catholic News Service
RUSSELLVILLE, Ala. (CNS) — Auxiliary Bishop John R. Manz of Chicago heard a lot about the plight of migrant workers in general during an October pastoral visit to Alabama, but he also learned of specific challenges faced by women who come to the United States seeking work.
The Oct. 21-24 trip was sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church in collaboration with the Birmingham Diocese.
During an Oct. 22 reception at Good Shepherd Church in Russellville, one woman shared with Bishop Manz how women have to be wary of their bosses on farms and factories.
She said women try to stay in pairs because the bosses might tell a woman he needs her for something and when she reports there, she can be attacked. The women won’t report the rapes because they fear deportation.
Other women also told of difficulties they faced with employers and even a family member.
Giselle Jimenez, for example, came to the U.S. to live with an uncle who got her a position as a domestic worker in a man’s home. However, there was more expected of her than just cooking and cleaning; he wanted her to have sex with him. The man locked her in a trailer for a year until Jimenez eventually escaped.
For Judith Garcia, unfair treatment came at the hands of her aunt. After Garcia’s father had an accident and couldn’t work any longer, she and her sister came from Mexico to the United States to make money for the family.
They lived with an aunt who was an American citizen. Their aunt kept them in her home for a year, working them from the morning through the night cleaning and baking bread. She didn’t pay them and didn’t let them outside.
Eventually Garcia got out of the house and made her way to a nearby store where some people who knew her father recognized her.
One woman told her that what her aunt was doing was illegal. The two went back to the aunt’s home to get her sister, who was reluctant to leave but eventually did.
Garcia found a job painting wood trim in houses and after a few years she met her husband in Russellville. They’ve been together 11 years and have three children.
Her struggles haven’t ended though. At the church reception, she said that three years ago a white male drunk driver swerved off the road and struck her 10-year-old daughter Brittany.
Her daughter, who suffered brain damage, is unable to talk or walk. They communicate with her by asking her yes-or-no questions, to which she blinks responses.
The police never charged the man and ruled the incident an accident. Garcia felt her family was discriminated against because they are Latino.
Medicaid covers most, but not all, of Brittany’s medical bills. The family doesn’t have a wheelchair that properly fits her needs, and they are hoping for a handicapped-accessible van to be able to take Brittany out more.
They say they have no hatred for the man who hit their daughter. They just want justice for her.
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Duriga is editor of the Catholic New World, newspaper of the Chicago Archdiocese.
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Tags: Refugees, USCCB