Archive for January, 2012

Broadview Deportation Center: Friday, January 6, 2012:

          This Saturday, at synagogues around the world, we complete the reading of the Book of Genesis, and conclude the story of Joseph and his family:  Not Joseph of the “Technicolor Dreamcoat,” but also Joseph who was thrown into a pit and taken forcibly to Egypt and separated from his father; Joseph the indentured servant; Joseph who was unjustly imprisoned and who languished there for years.

          The Hebrew word for prison is “beyt tzor,” a place of narrowness:  And the beyt tzor could have killed Joseph, but what kept him alive and ultimately saved him was his DREAMS.  Because he shared his dreams, he was remembered by a fellow prisoner who told the Pharaoh of Joseph gifts, and ultimately he was freed, he rose to great power and was able to save his whole family from the famine that gripped the whole region.

          And today we stand here in front of another beyt tzor —another narrow place—here at Broadview.  And if you doubt this is a prison, I hope you saw the agents leaving while we were praying the Our Father, carrying the chains and handcuffs back to the sheriff’s van parked across the street.  And we pray for those imprisoned within this deportation center, that they will continue to dream and to re-form their lives after the trauma they have experienced, and will especially experience today.  And let us pray for ourselves, and the prison walls that surround us all:  the walls of racism, of xenophobia and fear of the immigrant; of anti-immigrant legislation; of mindless hate that diminishes us all.  Let us all HOLD FAST TO DREAMS, especially in the coming ten days, as we prepare to honor the life and message of our country’s GREATEST DREAMER: For it is in our dreams that we keep hope alive.


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Quelino Ojeda died on New Year’s Day.  The Cause of Death, frankly, was Christ Hospital, Oak Lawn.  Ojeda didn’t die at Christ Hospital, but the policies of Advocate Health Care, which administers Christ Hospital, killed him just as surely as the cardiac arrest, brought on by septic infection, bed sores and inadequate care for his quadraplegia, as listed on his death certificate.  Quelino was only 21 years old:  He had come to the Chicago area in 2010 in search of work, to support his family back home in Oaxaca.  And he found employment in the construction industry, working near Midway Airport.  He had a terrible, terrible accident at work, falling 20 feet and suffering massive spinal injuries.  He was sent to Christ Hospital, and for the months he was at Christ, he received state-of-the-art care, which gave him and his friends and appointed guardian hope for some long-term recovery.

     Although Quelino was undocumented, his employer would have contributed to Workmen’s Compensation in his name, and therefore his care would be covered by the Workmen’s Comp trust, but Christ Hospital didn’t see it that way.  It appears they viewed Quelino as a debit on their accounting ledger, and so  —without the permission of his guardian, his Chicago friends or Quelino himself, he was sent back to Mexico, to languish in an inadequate medical center, attached to a ventilator, still away from family and without the assistance of the friends who were his advocates here in Chicago.

The Chicago Tribune and Hoy, its sister publication in Spanish,  wrote a number of articles about Quelino’s situation.  Advocate Health Systems finally “apologized” and vowed to do better next time, but it didn’t save Quelino:  Although he was transferred to a more technologically equipped facility in Oaxaca, his condition deteriorated and he died  just a year after leaving Chicago.  He was on the cover of Hoy Tuesday, January 3rd, and the Tribune wrote a final article the following day. 

Advocate and its hospitals operate with a 501C(3) tax exemption and are ostensibly not-for-profit, charitable institutions.  Under this tax stipulation they are required  to provide care for people who cannot pay.  And, as a faith-based institution, they are morally required not to lie and not oppress and exploit the poor and the stranger.  Advocate flunks all requirements.

For those of us who work for faith-based institutions, it is our responsibility to police our own:  When our places of worship, our charities, our traditions exploit the poor, it is our duty to stand up and say:  NOT IN MY NAME. NOT IN THE NAME OF MY GOD: This is not the way we live out our ethical promise.  Rest in peace/descanse en paz, Quelino.  May the angels lead you into paradise.  You will not be forgotten. 

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