Valuing the Other

by Mark Votava


I have been thinking a lot about immigration lately.  There is an immigration detention center called ICE close to where I live.  This detention center is run by a for-profit company called GEO that makes money off of detaining immigrants at the borders of our country.  The more people that they put in detention the more money the company makes.

  • A for-profit company called GEO imprisons others to make money

So it is beneficial to everyone who works for this company to do their job and imprison as many people as possible so all the Americans from Geo become wealthier and can afford a comfortable way of life at the expense of others.  Many people think this is justice, to keep others out of our country who don’t belong, and are proud to be Americans.  It is pretty sad for sure.  All of this is an abstract concept until you meet someone who has experienced the horrors of this place.

  • Giving Alfredo’s room to someone struggling with immigration

Our friend Alfredo died November 5, 2013.  He was an immigrant from Mexico who could never get legal status in our country so he ended up living at the Tacoma Catholic Worker for about twenty two years before he died recently.  He lived by the hospitality of others and was a huge part of our community.  We all miss him dearly and wanted to honor him by giving his room at the Guadalupe House to someone struggling with immigration by being imprisoned at the ICE detention center.

  • Someone from ICE is now living with us

Now I live with a new friend of mine who comes straight out of ICE.  He loves the Guadalupe House and thinks it is paradise compared to living at ICE.  It is fun to get to know his story more and see his happiness about the possibility of being fee in America.

  • Remembering Alfredo through our new friend

Everytime I see our new friend, I think of our dear friend Alfredo who I miss a lot.  Alfredo would always drink his coffee in the morning while listening to Spanish music and read the paper.  He painted our porch, where the poor gather to take showers during the week, and our steps to the backyard before he died.  After the long winter season, the paint is now wearing down and becoming faded and nonexistent as people walk over the steps.

  • Everyone is valuable no matter how much money and opportunity they have

One thing that I have learned through my relationships with others who come from a different culture than my own is that everyone is valuable no matter how much money and opportunity one has.  I am seeing the image of God in others who have not been raised in the North American culture.  Learning from them is enriching my life tremendously.  I do not have to get so caught up in creating my identity around how much money I make or the things I own and just be faithfully present in the present moment of everyday life where I live in community with others.

How can we show more hospitality to others who have less money and opportunity than we do?