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William is Pastoral Organizer for the Office of Immigrant Affairs and Immigrant Education

Monday, May 20, 2013

Supporting the Immigrant Community: Together As Brothers & Sisters Unity, common sense and the role of the faith community

It’s all around us. The Immigration reform debate is on, once again, and as one should expect, it has united some while dividing others.  Many faith groups have come to the realization that treating strangers as yourself (Cf Lv, 19-33) is not only biblical wisdom, but can also be considered the moral standard to live out one’s faith; and is it not Jesus himself who succinctly impels us to recognize him in the strangers (Cf Mt, 25 -35)?

So we know that immigration can bring a certain level of moral dilemma. The Church is then well within Her rights to speak out on public policy issues of moral consequence and often does. In fact, the Church has a moral obligation to speak out on issues which impact human dignity and human life. In the immigration area, the Church brings special expertise to the table because we are an immigrant church and have helped assist immigrants to assimilate into the nation for decades.

The Archdiocese of Chicago through the Office for Immigrant Affairs launched the campaign Together As Brothers & Sisters to raise attention and support to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation in 2013. This is the collaborative effort of various groups working with our office: Priests for Justice for Immigrants (PJI, 200 priests) , Sisters and Brothers of Immigrants (SBI, 59 religious orders), Pastoral Migratoria (PM, 370 Hispanic lay leaders in 65 Hispanic parishes), Polish Immigrant-to-Immigrant Ministry (PIIM, 40 Polish lay leaders in 11 Polish parishes), Immigration Parish Coordinators (IPCs, education liaisons in 129 native-born parishes), and Catholic DREAMers of Chicago (DREAMers, 250 undocumented students).

The campaign is a concrete example that the Church–in Chicago in this case– is uniting people for a common objective: to pass comprehensive immigration reform. It is extremely exciting to see how almost half the parishes in our Archdiocese (made up of 352 parishes) are collecting 100,000 printed postcards signed by parishioners with the principles of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops supporting a change in legislation. These principles are: provide a path to citizenship for undocumented persons in the country; preserve family unity as a corner‐stone of our national immigration system; provide legal paths for low‐skilled immigrant workers to come and work in the U.S.; restore due process protections to our immigrants enforcement policies; and address the root causes (push factors) of migration, such as persecution and economic disparity.

We will have a moment to celebrate this unity when parishes bring their signed postcards to the May 30 Pilgrimage & Prayer Vigil for Immigration Reform with Cardinal Francis George. All are welcome. We are blessed to have the support of our Cardinal, but more importantly we are encouraged to continue our work wherein we see people raising their voices, sending postcards, and calling and visiting their congressional representatives. We invite you to send an electronic postcard to your congressional representatives and senators, asking them to keep families together, give our brother and sister immigrants a chance to earn the opportunity to be full members of our country, and not to take away the dreams of our young people.

I believe strongly that faith, common sense, and a desire for unity are the right combination for recognizing the signs of this time, echoing the prophetic text of Gaudium et Spes N1:  The joys and the hopes, the grieves and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the grieves and anxieties of the followers of Christ.

For more information on how to support efforts for comprehensive immigration reform please visit our website: www.archchicago.org/Immigration/

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