Hundreds of people packed Our Lady of the Mount Church in Cicero Feb. 25 to pray for “Dreamers,” young people who were brought to the United States illegally when they were children and now want to stay in the only homeland many of them remember. Their situation took on particular urgency as an administrative program that allowed some of those young people to go to school and was set to expire March 6. The program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was created by President Barack Obama in 2012; President Donald Trump announced in September that it would end in March. About 800,000 people are enrolled in the program, out of an estimated 1.8 million that could have been eligible for it. There have been several legal challenges aimed at keeping DACA alive, and in January a federal judge in California ruled that the government must continue renewing DACA status while a challenge works its way through the courts. The U.S. Supreme Court declined the Trump administration’s request to intervene on Feb. 26. In the meantime, several attempts to pass legislation that would allow DACA recipients and those who would be eligible for DACA to stay failed. Father Gary Graf, who started a protein-powder-and-water fast in solidarity with the young people on Jan. 15 celebrated the Mass and welcomed groups from across the archdiocese who came to add their prayers. There were groups of women religious and Catholics from Waukegan, Western Springs and the Gage Park neighborhood of Chicago. “We are all immigrants, and we’re here to support one another,” Graf said. “We’re here to be involved in saving the soul of our nation, to remind ourselves where we come from.” The Archdiocese of Chicago encouraged all Catholics to participate in the national call-in campaign Feb. 26 to urge Congress to act before that happens. Flyers with information were distributed in archdiocesan parishes Feb. 24 and 25. In addition, parishes held three minutes of silence the weekend of March 4-5, with each second of that representing 1,000 young people who could be deported. Three Chicago women religious traveled to Washington, D.C., to participate in civil disobedience with other Catholic leaders. Dozens were arrested in the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 27. (See story) Each minute of those 30 hours represents 1,000 of the 1.8 million people who could claim the “Dreamer” label, Graf said. The United States and its citizens have performed and continue to perform tremendous acts of mercy, he said. “And we’re going to allow 1.8 million people to be expelled from our midst?” Graf said. “It’s impossible. It’s unjust. It’s sinful.” Diane Harken, a member of St. John of the Cross Parish in Western Springs, agrees with that assessment. After Mass ended, she and several other St. John of the Cross parishioners stopped Elena Segura, associate director of the archdiocese’s Office of Human Dignity and Solidarity and senior coordinator for immigration, to find out how they could most effectively advocate for immigration reform. “I am troubled by what I perceive as a lack of support for Dreamers,” Harken said. “It is the right thing to do. We must support them. We must.” If the United States cannot succeed in finding a solution to allow DACA recipients and others like them to stay, “I fear this country is heading in the wrong direction,” she said. “That’s not what Catholics stand for. That’s not what I stand for.” Segura, who began working on immigration ministry for the archdiocese in 2005, said she will continue until there is a solution. “You’ll see me out here with my walker,” she joked. But, she said, the plight of the young immigrants is real. During the Mass, when Graf asked those who were Dreamers to stand and be identified, only the four who wore T-shirts identifying them as such stood. After the Mass, they helped distribute purple bracelets to remind people to pray for them and those in their situation during Lent. “They were the only ones who stood up, but they weren’t the only ones here,” Segura said. “I had many come up to me in the back of church during Mass. But they are afraid, even in church.” One of the four, Daniela Limon, offered smiles and friendly greetings along with bracelets to members of the congregation as they left. Asked how she is feeling about the situation, she shrugged. “I’m hanging in there,” she said.