No faith in this immigration story

To understand this post, you need to do something before you continue reading. You need to see the photograph that accompanied this news story when it ran on page one of the Washington Post. To understand my concerns, you have to see that picture -- which I cannot include in this post because it is copyrighted.

So click here and go look at that photo. It's the first one in the gallery of photos, the one that ran with this cutline:

Yves Gomes attends Mass on Sunday at St. Camillus Catholic Church in Silver Spring, where he also spoke to the congregation about his plight. Gomes, 17, had been scheduled to be deported Friday to join his family in Calcutta. His parents had tourist visas when they brought him at 14 months old to visit relatives in Silver Spring in 1994. His parents set about establishing legal residency, but his father's application for political asylum was denied a few years ago, and the family was ordered to leave the country. The family stayed. However in 2008, Yves's father was deported to his native Bangladesh, and last year his mother was deported to her native India.

That is actually a concise summary of the story. In the photo, Gomes is shown silhouetted against a stained-glass windows with his hands raised in prayer. It's a stance that one would see often when liturgical Christians pray the Lord's Prayer. However, it's also a stance one would see in charismatic and Pentecostal churches. Then again, it is a gesture that would also not be foreign to Muslims.

For me, this raises a question: What is the religious affiliation of this family that is caught up in this controversy and has their faith made the case more complicated?

The story is complicated already. I know that.

But when you are talking about lands that are -- religiously speaking -- as complex and tense as India and Bangladesh, I do not think it is illogical to ask questions about religion. Also, here is a key passage of the story that is referenced in that long cutline:

Robin and Cecilia Gomes had tourist visas when they brought 14-month-old Yves to visit relatives in Silver Spring in 1994, according to lawyers, advocates and family members. The parents immediately set about establishing legal residency. During the process they obtained work permits and paid taxes. Robin was a hotel waiter; Cecilia became an assistant professor of computer science at Northern Virginia Community College. She gave birth to a second son, Aaron, now 15, an American citizen.

Robin Gomes's appeal for political asylum was denied in 2006, and the family was ordered to leave the country. By that time, the family's life was so rooted in the United States, it seemed impossible to go, Cecilia Gomes said. In 2008, the family was stopped by police for a faulty taillight. Days later, immigration agents surrounded its house off New Hampshire Avenue and detained Robin Gomes. It was the last time Yves and Aaron saw their father, who was deported to his native Bangladesh.

Now, we are told that Robin Gomes sought political asylum.

Political? I have heard of cases in which people have requested asylum for religious reasons, arguing that, as Christians, especially if they are converts, they would face severe persecution or death if they are returned to Muslim homelands. U.S. officials tend to be rather insensitive to these appeals, denying that the religious issue truly exists and claiming that this is simply a political matter that is not serious enough to justify asylum. I have heard experts say that the State Department simply does not "get religion."

However, unless I have missed something, the story does not give us any information at all about the faith of the Gomes family. Search the story text for "religion," "faith," "Catholic," "Muslim," Hindu" or whatever.

Yet the art -- which is beautiful, but vague -- showed the central figure in this drama praying. In another photo in the online gallery, another family member is shown with a cross pin on his lapel. We are told that his father sought asylum. That's about it.

Might religion have played a role in this? I mean, we are dealing with complex and tortured cultures, when it comes to matters of faith. If this family is Catholic, that would be significant -- especially in Bangladesh.

But when it comes to faith, this story is completely empty, like a vacant room. There's nothing there at all. I want to know if that is the truth. Are readers missing information that they need to understand this controversy? I wonder about that, when I look at that A1 photo.

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