Religion Booknotes

Mercy without Borders
The Catholic Worker and Immigration
Mark and Louise Zwick
Paulist Press, $19.95, 272 pp.

For more than three decades Mark and Louise Zwick have run a Catholic Worker house of hospitality in Houston, Texas—Casa Juan Diego. Most of the people they serve are undocumented immigrants, though more recently there have also been a lot of refugees from Hurricane Katrina. Mercy without Borders tells the story of the Zwicks’ ministry—how it began and how it’s developed over the years. Because it’s a narrative rather than just an extended argument, the book grounds the issue of illegal immigration in the real human suffering of particular people. It offers up-close portraits of the immigrants themselves, and of the people who live and work with them.

We read of young women raped and impregnated by the “coyotes” who helped get them across the border, of immigrants who had to have limbs amputated after falling from trains, of undocumented workers cheated out of their wages by unscrupulous companies, and of badly injured workers dropped off at the Catholic Worker house instead of a hospital because a boss didn’t want anyone to know they had no documents. We learn, or are reminded, that many immigrants fail to report crimes to the police because they’re...

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About the Author

Lawrence Cunningham is John O'Brien professor of Theology (Emeritus) at the University of Notre Dame.