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This book is a part memoir, part stories from the viewpoint of immigrants and refugees, and part practice suggestions. It is designed for both the general reader interested in the issue of immigration to the USA and for professionals, students, and volunteers who are thinking about serving this community. It tells the stories of several remarkable people out of the hundreds that I have known and helped to serve at Casa Juan Diego, a center and refuge for the immigrant community in Houston. You will meet asylum seekers running for their lives, survivors of TRAFFICKING and many other forms of violence, a child soldier, a DREAMer, and an artist learning to live with a debilitating disease. They have in common only that their problematic immigration status here, coupled with the serious difficulties in their country of origin, have left them vulnerable to illness, injury, violence, and early death.

Sophia's Story


Sophia and her children are the family that I have worked with the longest. The first time she came to Casa Juan Diego was before my time. She was fleeing her husband’s steadily escalating violence, with the beatings growing more and more savage until the last one so terrible that it caused her to miscarry in her third trimester of pregnancy.

She told me that she had endured many beatings before this, but this time was different, as if he meant to kill her. She had no idea where she would go, but that did not matter. Losing the child like this was the worst thing that had ever happened to her in a lifetime of suffering. She never recovered from the loss. Years later, during a visit to her apartment, she eagerly handed me a small photo of the dead baby in a faux gold frame. I tried not to look at it, to avert my eyes, but it was impossible, I had to look. The baby, her skin dark in death, had been placed in a little white open bassinet by the hospital staff, I assume. She looked peaceful; her vulnerability had come to an end. But Sophia’s had not.