Imprudent Altruism and Illegal Immigration
Listening to the sanctimonious left deify caravans of migrants for being poor reminds me of a time when -- to reach out and be Christ-like -- my husband Jerry and I placed our family at risk.
It happened in the mid-eighties at the end of the 1970’s Jesus movement, when, in our home, Keith Green’s “Jesus Commands Us to Go” was on the turntable 24-7. Zealous to live out the Gospel, Jerry, our two small children, and I attended church three times a week.
Our style of living out the Great Commission was to remain, without exception, trusting and hospitable to all. By leaving our door open, both Jerry and I truly believed we were doing the Lord’s work.
One holiday season, Mary Pascucci, the village bag lady -- long white whiskers and all – took a long overdue soak in our bathtub. Crazy Mary spent Christmas Eve in my nightgown and slippers drinking spiced tea and eating Italian Pignoli cookies. Mary was loud and smelly, but harmless.
But then, a few months later, my good-hearted husband went to deposit a bag of old clothes into a St. Vincent DePaul dumpster and returned with a guest. As my politically-incorrect hubby ascended our front steps, he humorously announced, “Look who I found in the dumpster -- Jesus dressed like a Mexican.” Jerry believed that finding a disadvantaged person rolled up in the fetal position in a dumpster was God presenting our family a unique opportunity to extend charity to a person in need.
The gentleman in tow used the alias, José, but turned out to really be Norberto Torres.
Norberto was Latino and about 18-years-old. Gazing down at the floor whenever he spoke, the shy man responded softly to questions in broken English. Whether Jerry’s find was legally or illegally here was irrelevant to us because we were eager do-gooders wanting to serve God.
Norberto typified the angelic destitute person that every liberal supporter of illegal immigration dreams of saving. For overly enthusiastic young believers like Jerry and myself, we were more than happy to prove our commitment to Christ by clothing, housing, and feeding a street person.
And so, Norberto spent a week sleeping on the floor on an air mattress in our living room. Jerry gave him his coat; we fed him and sat him in the front row at church. When Norberto was home, he insisted on watching the movie Jesus of Nazareth, which, as ministers of the Gospel, we considered a divine sign from above that God ordained the encounter.
Yet as spiritually fulfilling a happenstance ministering to Norberto, aka José, turned out to be, with two small children, it wasn’t feasible for the vagabond to siesta indefinitely on our floor.
Thankfully, a Jesuit priest we knew had connections at a ministry in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx called My Brother’s Place. Run by a Pallottine Order of priests, the 12-bed shelter accommodated homeless men and agreed to give Norberto a bed and place him in a job at a trucking firm in New York’s Garment District. Feeling comfortable with that option, Jerry gathered up our poverty-stricken disciple, packed him into our 1972 Chevy Malibu, and chauffeured him to the Bronx.
That Saturday was the last time we saw Norberto.
A year or so later we heard that a Sister of the Good Shepherd, Virginia Thomann, aged 65, who counseled men at the shelter, was found dead “propped up at her desk.” At the time, the police were unsure whether the nun was murdered during a robbery or as a result of an argument with someone she knew.
Soon after we learned our former houseguest was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.
It seems Norberto was asked to leave the shelter for breaking house rules concerning drug use. During an argument over seized money, the mild-mannered fellow we accommodated for a week, became enraged and stabbed the “gentle, devoted nun who helped care for him” four times in the neck with a penknife.
That’s right, the 18-year-old “Jesus in a José suit” that Jerry fished out of a dumpster, the dude who we opened our home to for a solid week, went on to murder a nun.
According to the AP, like Jerry and Jeannie, “Sister Thomann, always left the door open.” In his eulogy, John Cardinal O'Connor extolled the murdered nun for her misguided belief that “Even though [homeless men] were street kids, [she] … described them as saints.'' Thirty years after her death that sounds exactly like the open-borders illegals are Jesus, Mary, and Joseph crowd.
A story like ours doesn’t bode well for the liberal belief that people in need = moral character. Nor does it build confidence in Jerry’s and my false assumption that being kind has the power to transform a self-serving criminal into a God-fearing person.
And the story didn’t end there, after being arrested, convicted, and spending two decades in prison for killing Sister Thomann, in 2014, while on parole, Norberto sodomized and forced oral sex on a neighbor’s child while babysitting in a Harlem apartment. The predator pleaded guilty after his DNA from semen was found inside the girl’s clothing.
After recovering from a fractured skull and a brain bleed inflicted by the boyfriend of the victim’s mother, for the rest of his life, Norberto Torres will not sleep in dumpsters, nor on anyone’s living room floor. Instead, for an additional 25-years-to-life, Torres will occupy a permanent cot with his name etched on it, located in the corner of a jail cell.
The moral of this harrowing tale is that naivety and misguided benevolence caused Jerry and me to embrace a person we should never have trusted. Looking back, I realize that, unlike Sister Thomann, by God’s grace, it’s a miracle our family and our 7-year-old daughter escaped unscathed.
I believe there’s a lesson to be learned concerning the current immigration debate because, lest we forget, much like Norberto, illegal immigrants have already raped children and murdered nuns. By irresponsibly pushing the poverty-translates-into-piousness narrative, and insisting on the categorical embrace of illegals who may turn out to harbor motives similar Norberto Torres’s, the open borders faction puts countless American lives at risk.
Jeannie hosts a blog at www.jeannie-ology.com.