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Cover story

Parish center goes to bat for immigrants

NCR Staff

The Border, the parish immigrant center run by Franciscan Fr. Brian Jordan, got started last September with advertisements in the city’s ethnic newspapers and through news conferences and television appearances. Said Jordan, “I tell [immigrants] who I am, that the center is free and confidential, that they’re being ripped off by unscrupulous immigration lawyers. I tell them success stories. After that it’s word of mouth.”

And busy. Jordan, who raises money doing sponsored marathon runs goes to bat for clients at the Immigration and Nationalization Service, helps some adjust their status to obtain green cards and appeals for volunteers in the parish bulletin.

He’s got 22 volunteers who speak nine languages, from Mandarin to Swahili, from Tagalog to Polish.

He’s a tough negotiator. After Salvadoran dishwasher, Huberto Hernandez, 40, was kicked to death in Washington last year, Jordan was quickly with the family. He persuaded TACA airlines to fly him to San Salvador and fly Hernandez’s parents up to the funeral for free -- and simultaneously persuaded the State Department to hurry up the visas. While in San Salvador Jordan prayed with Hernandez’s widow and four children and gave her a check for $3,000 sent by the Washington area Salvadoran community.

Jordan is working with U.S. unions formulating job-training programs for immigrants. New York’s Pakistani limousine drivers trying to form a union have asked him to be their chaplain.

“They’re Muslims and they’re asking me,” said Jordan, in amazement, a priest who in his Franciscan habit has inserted himself into some tough New York City ethnic confrontations.

Is he ever afraid?

“Yes,” he said. “When the provincial calls me into his office.”

National Catholic Reporter, June 16, 2000