Labor Union Resolution
Statewide organizational sign-on letter
A Victim of Broken Immigration Law
The following tribute is an excerpt from his blog, Faith and Labor (www.faithandlabor.blogspot.com).
I met Gustavo Gomez in the spring of 1999. He was an Iron Worker and member of the union. Gustavo was also studying for the deaconate. He agreed to do Labor in the Pulpit homilies in English and Spanish.
Gustavo had been working at the Miller Park construction site when the gigantic crane, “Big Blue,” toppled over, killing three workers – all good friends. Gustavo said that wind conditions were prohibitive for sending workers up in a crane to do welding, but Major League Baseball wanted the stadium ready for the next year’s mid-summer All Star Game.
The next I heard about Gustavo was that he was in prison. After the accident he started drinking and made a bad decision allowing arms to be stored in his house. Gustavo pleaded guilty to storing the arms and was sent to prison.
After serving his time Gustavo was transferred to an I.C.E. (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) detention center for deportation. Gustavo had a green card – legal resident status - but was not a citizen. Although he had grown up in the U.S. and was now a grandfather, because of a 1996 law, he was now subject to deportation.
Gustavo’s family, the Faith Community for Worker Justice, the Iron Workers, priests and a Bishop advocated for Gustavo’s release and exemption from deportation. Former District Attorney E. Michael McCann was able to get the arms conviction vacated, but a felony conviction from when he was nineteen years old remained. I.C.E. let Gustavo out of prison, but he had to report once a month while his case was appealed.
Two years ago in 2008, when reporting to the I.C.E. in Milwaukee, Gustavo was taken into custody without judicial process. He was sent to a detention center in Dodge County, WI and then deported to Mexico in chains. He arrived at the airport in Ciudad Juarez with the clothes on his back and $40.00.
My wife Joanne and I visited Gustavo in Guadalajara. His spirits were down and it was obvious that he missed his family. Iron workers are very skilled, but Gustavo couldn’t secure a permanent job. Josefina, now in her 70’s, got a job cleaning an office building to help support him. Gustavo’s family in the U.S. faced severe problems without Gustavo.
In early September I received an early morning phone call from Guillermo, Gustavo’s brother-in- law. The shocking news was that Gustavo had been killed in an auto accident in Guadalajara.
Mexican and U.S. authorities allowed the body to be sent to the U.S. for a funeral and burial. There was also a funeral service in Guadalajara. It’s more than somewhat ironic that I.C.E. allowed Gustavo’s dead body to return home.
The funeral was at St. Rose Parish, a former Irish immigrant church now Latino. Father Dennis preached the homily. He was visibly shaken. He chose the story of dead, battered and bloody handyman on the cross. We knew what he was talking about. Dennis said the response is faith in Jesus’ resurrection.
This was good enough for Josefina. She will continue with us in the New Sanctuary movement as a member of the “Comité Timón” (New Sanctuary Steering Committee) and “Círculo de Apoyo” (New Sanctuary Support Group).
Myths & Facts
Myth: Immigrants are taking over Wisconsin
Fact: In 2006, Wisconsin's foreign born population represented 4.4 percent of the total population - less than 1 in 20 - compared with 3.6 percent in 2000.
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