“Hello, my name is Jersey and today is my birthday. My birthday wish is I would like to have my dad to be with me because this is a very important day and my dad is very meaningful to me and it has been so long that he hasn’t been with me in two of my birthdays, last year and today.”Many men do not attend their children’s birthdays for different reasons. In this case, however, Jersey’s father would have liked to be with her on this special occasion, but he could not. He is in prison for having entered the United States as an undocumented person, in the hope of seeking for a better future for himself and his children.Jersey (who decorated her letter with a flying dove with a gold heart on its chest) and three other children representing millions of children of deported or jailed parents read the letters they wrote to Pope Francis during a simple, short, touching mid-morning ceremony Jan. 10 at the plaza of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.Father Pa√∫l Velázquez, the Cathedral’s associate pastor, received the youth on behalf of the Cathedral and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.“We will make sure to send these letters to the Vatican,” Father Velázquez told representatives of several immigrant organizations, including Hermandad Mexicana Transnational and the Council of Mexican Federations in North America (COFEM, by its acronym in Spanish).Father Velázquez stressed the continued efforts of the Church to keep families together and to keep demanding an immigration reform that leads to citizenship. “The family is the core of our society and as such we need to keep it together,” he said.The priest’s statement aligned with Archbishop José Gomez’s speech, “The Catholic Church, Immigration Reform and the Social Fabric of Los Angeles,” delivered later Jan. 10 to members of the Rotary Club (LA5), as part of their speaker series “Newsmakers and Thought Leaders.”The archbishop — who also addressed immigration reform during a breakfast hosted by Town Hall Los Angeles on Jan. 14, at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel — thanked the Rotary Club group of more than 300 business, government and community leaders gathered at the new City Club in downtown Los Angeles, for their support to the less fortunate segments of the community. The Rotary Club has a successful scholarship program to help needy college-bound students pay tuition, books or other necessities they may have as they enter college. Most of the students they support have enrolled in Ivy League schools.Archbishop Gomez noted that the archdiocese operates one of the largest school systems in the state, where more than one-third of the nearly 80,000 students live below the poverty line, and are subsidized through the generous contributions of Catholics. Among these families are undocumented immigrants whose families have been separated through deportation.He explained how the Archdiocese also serves about a million people through its social services network in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, where pre-school and after-school programs are also run, as well as assisted living and senior facilities, shelters for the homeless and domestic violence victims.“We have our own ‘Lampedusas’ not far from our borders here in the United States,” said Archbishop Gomez, referring to the Mediterranean island visited by Pope Francis last year to raise awareness about the despairing conditions in which immigrants live and are treated around the globe.“In my ministry as a priest and bishop over the years in Colorado, Texas and now in Southern California,” continued the archbishop, “I’ve met a lot of immigrants. And sometimes the stories they tell can make your heart ache.”He referred to the people who die in the deserts trying to reach the borders, and the many women and children who “become victims of smugglers and human traffickers.”Several times during his speech Archbishop Gomez reiterated that immigration reform is not about politics for him, but about “children and families caught up in our broken system.”And once again he repeated what has become his motto regarding the immigration debate, “We are talking about souls, not statistics.” “We are talking about kids who are left without a mother or a father; about fathers who without warning, won’t be coming home for dinner tonight; parents who may not see their families again for a decade, and we are also talking about a permanent underclass who live in the margins of society.”According to the letter sent to Pope Francis from a group of seven organizations working with immigrants in the country, a record two million people have been deported in the last five years. More than five million children live with the daily fear of having one or both parents deported.“I hope you help us,” wrote Guadalupe Gonzalez in her letter to the pope. “I know the feeling of getting separated from a parent, my dad. It could be the worst feeling you experience in life. I will never get to see him anymore.”Her father was deported two years ago to Mexico, where he died last October.“I beg you with all my heart to pray for all the people who are going through my situation,” said young Mario in his letter to Pope Francis. His father is currently in an immigration detention facility.