PHARR — Santa Claus had competition at the Hernandez household on Monday, when Major League Baseball player Jaime Garcia showed up with gifts and groceries.
Together with two friends — former Pharr City Commissioner Eddie Cantu and McAllen Public Utility Trustee Albert Cardenas — Garcia planned the Christmas surprise. The Reynosa-born baseball player attended Sharyland High School and pitches for the St. Louis Cardinals.
“We picked this family because we felt that they had a big need,” said Cantu, who’s running for Hidalgo County Commissioners Court Precinct 2. “Also because they’re from Pharr. So we wanted to come out and support them.”
The Monitor featured the Hernandez family on Dec. 13 during the annual “Spirit of Christmas” charity appeal. With family matriarch Claudia Hernandez, 44, stricken with cancer and bedridden, her two teenage daughters have started running the household. The family’s eldest son, 20-year-old Alex, helps support them with money from occasional painting jobs.
Claudia immigrated to the United States without authorization roughly 17 years ago, crossing the border with 3-year-old Alex. Without legal status, Claudia doesn’t qualify for government assistance. And after graduating from PSJA North High School, Alex can’t afford college tuition or find steady work without legal documents.
“It’s hard, just looking for a job,” Alex said. “I’ve been here since pre-k, and they think I’m from here. And I’m like: ‘No, I’m from Mexico.’”
The Hernandez family struggles to pay bills — and can’t afford cancer treatment for Claudia.
“I was in the same situation you were when I was in high school,” Garcia said. “I got drafted, and that’s when I was able to get my working visa. And two years ago, that’s when I finally got my residency.”
After meeting the Hernandez family on Monday, Garcia, Cantu and Cardenas agreed to cover the family’s electric bill for six months. Cantu also called state Rep. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, an immigration attorney, who will help Alex apply for deferred action.
“You’re doing the right thing, man, by staying out of trouble and helping your family,” Garcia said.
HOW TO HELP
The United Way is accepting volunteers and donations — including, but not limited to, clothing, food, furniture, toys and money — for the families of this series or other families as well. To donate to a family or to United Way call (956) 607-6569, (956) 607-5989 or (956) 607-3985 or mail donations to P.O. Box 187, McAllen, TX, 78505. The United Way of South Texas is located at 113 E. Pecan Blvd. in McAllen.
You can also make an online donation on the United Way of South Texas website at www.unitedwayofsotx.org. The Monitor is not accepting donations.