Leticia Chavez represents everything that’s good about the Christus Health System. She cares deeply for her patients, and consistently validates their dignity as she compassionately tends to them in our intensive care unit (ICU).
Leticia is uniquely empathetic. Like many of our patients, and tens of thousands of South Texas residents, she wasn’t born in the United States. Her mother made the decision to move the family to the United States — illegally — before Leticia was 2 years old. By age 3, Leticia was living in Texas where she spent her childhood. A bright student and a hard worker, Leticia was valedictorian of her high school class.
As someone without legal status, Leticia could have concluded her education there. Securing federal student aid for college wasn’t possible. Undeterred, she enrolled in an associate’s degree program, and received her associate’s degree in nursing from junior college, paying her own way. The federal government created Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in 2012, after Leticia’s graduation from college. Leticia applied for DACA and used her new status to earn a Bachelor of Science in nursing from the University of Texas at Tyler.
Before DACA, Leticia turned down several employment opportunities. Eventually, she accepted her first real job. With her income came new tax revenues flowing to the local, state and federal governments. Today, more than 90 percent of DACA recipients are employed or enrolled in school. All of these young men and women have been in the United States since at least 2007.
Leticia is consistently compassionate, and like all of the immigrants we encounter in our hospitals, she’s devoted to her adopted country. Like Leticia, these men and women want to be able to take jobs, and work hard. They want to prove their value to the Texas and U.S. economies. Leticia eventually wants to go back to school so she can one day open her own medical clinic. Other immigrants have similar dreams.
Christus Spohn is a faith-based ministry of the Catholic Church. We, the community of faith, are judged by the way we treat the most vulnerable among us. Our faith communities must find pastoral and legal ways to welcome our brothers and sisters in a spirit of hospitality and nonjudgmental generosity.
The U.S. conference of Catholic Bishops provides direction on how we ought to compassionately “welcome the stranger.” The ministry of hospitality has always been a hallmark not only of the Church, but also of our Jewish brothers and sisters.
When the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt, their eventual liberation led them to make commandments regarding the “strangers” or “aliens” among them. In Deuteronomy 10:17-19, we read: “So you, too must befriend the alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.” Christ himself exhorts us to welcome the stranger when he says: “Amen I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt. 25:40).
It is time for Congress to fix the U.S. immigration system — starting with a legal framework to continue the DACA program that could allow Dreamers to apply for eventual citizenship — Leticia and approximately 800,000 others should be allowed to pursue their dreams. Texas is full of immigrant entrepreneurs and other immigrants who contribute positively to our economy and communities, which is why Congress should resolve this matter humanely, orderly, and with minimal disruption to our economy and national health system.
According to a new report from New American Economy, immigrants in Corpus Christi are twice as likely as U.S.-born residents to start or run their own business. Nearly 17 percent of the metro area’s immigrant population is self-employed, compared to 8.2 percent of the U.S.-born population. Looking at it another way: immigrants are only 8.5 percent of the city population, but are nearly 20 percent of its entrepreneurs.
Read the full story from Caller Times Opinion: “Why Congress shouldn’t cut legal immigration”