Chicagoland

Clergy, religious pray for separated families

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
June 25, 2018

Clergy, religious pray for separated families

About 100 people gathered to join clergy, religious men and women and laity at St. Clement Church, 642 W. Deming Ave., to pray and stand in solidarity for immigrant children separated from their parents on June 23, 2018. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
About 100 people gathered to join clergy, religious men and women and laity at St. Clement Church, 642 W. Deming Ave., to pray and stand in solidarity for immigrant children separated from their parents on June 23, 2018. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Participants pray as clergy during the service. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Paul Seaman, pastor of St. Clement Church, holds up a T-shirt that says "Yes, in fact I do care" during the service. The T-shirt is in response to a recent jacket worn by First Lady Melania Trump as she boarded a plane to Texas to meet migrant children separated from their parents. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A participant holds up a T-shirt. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director of the National Immigrant Justice Center, tells those gathered how to help immigrants. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Participants sing during the morning service at St. Clement. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Sister Bernardine Karge, a Dominican Sister of Sinsinawa, offers a reflection on behalf of the Sisters and Brothers of Immigrants, which represents 57 religious orders. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Dominican Sister Bernardine Karge wears a button while offering a reflection on behalf of the Sisters and Brothers of Immigrants, which represents 57 religious orders. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Yundia Carbajal holds onto her son Angel Tellez during the service. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
(Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Paul Seaman, pastor of St. Clement, holds up a card containing a quote from Pope Francis that offers people a way to become more involved in immigration ministry. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Participants sign a form to become an advocate for immigration ministry during the service. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Father Larry Dowling, pastor of St. Agatha Parish, signs a form to become an advocate for immigration ministry during the service. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

In the morning of June 23, about 100 people gathered on the plaza in front of St. Clement Church, 624 W. Deming Place, to pray for the children and the families affected by the “zero tolerance” policy being enforced on the United States’ southern border.

The service, hosted by St. Clement and organized by the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office of Human Dignity and Solidarity – Immigration Ministry, included speakers who offered ways for Catholics in Chicago to help those on the border, addressed the crises Central Americans are fleeing in the light of U.S. interference in their countries and talked about the people and corporations who are profiting from a policy that calls for detaining thousands of people.

Father Paul Seaman, St. Clement’s pastor, said the Catholic community must understand that everybody should care about what is happening, not just people in immigrant communities.

“This is an issue for all Americans, and we all need to do something about it,” said Seaman, who acknowledged that St. Clement, in the heart of Chicago’s Lincoln Park community, has few recent immigrants on its parish rolls. “The days of standing by and doing nothing are done. By our baptism, our hearts and our souls have been joined to every other person. We have to care for them when they suffer, and we have to do something about it.”

During his opening reflection, Seaman said the right to seek asylum, “a right enshrined in our laws,” “has been twisted and distorted into something that is little else than government-sanctioned kidnapping.”

He spoke of first lady Melania Trump, who wore a jacket bearing the words, “I don’t really care. Do u?” when boarding a flight to Texas to visit a children’s detention center.

“That is the question before us, brothers and sisters. Do you care?” he said. Then Seaman and several others unrolled colorful T-shirts bearing the words, “Yes, in fact, I do care.”

Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director of the Chicago-based National Immigrant Justice Center, said she has never seen policies as harsh and as inhumane as those implemented in the last few months, but she was heartened by the public outcry. It was that outcry that pushed President Donald Trump to sign an executive order June 20 saying families should be detained together rather than separated.

“People said this is wrong, this is cruel, this is not what Americans spoke, and the president had to listen,” McCarthy said. “Civil society – each one of you – spoke out.”

But the executive order did not solve the problem, because it still calls for asylum-seekers to be prosecuted for crossing the border illegally as they attempt to escape violence in their home countries.

“That executive order has really changed nothing, because it does not address the root cause,” she said. “The root cause is zero-tolerance. Whoever crosses our border, even though they are fleeing for their lives with their children on their backs, the most vulnerable or vulnerable people, we’re going to criminally prosecute them.”

Under the order, such families will be detained together. The Trump administration intends to challenge an Obama-era court order known as the Flores agreement that says children cannot be held in detention centers longer than 20 days, with or without their parents.

McCarthy urges those in attendance to continue to speak out by attending prayer vigils and protests, writing letters to the editor and posting on social media, staying informed about a situation that changes every day, contacting members of Congress and volunteering.

The National Immigrant Justice Center needs more people who speak languages besides English and they also need attorneys, she said.

“Legal representation is more important than ever before,” she said.

Sinsinawa Dominican Sister Bernardine Karge, an immigration attorney working in Chicago for the past 20 years, said volunteer attorneys are desperately needed because, while immigration courts recognize the right of people to legal representation, the government will not pay for it. As a result, only 14 percent of people in immigration proceedings have lawyers. But of detained people who have lawyers, the vast majority win their cases.

Karge, speaking on behalf of Sisters and Brothers for Immigrants, told participants that alternatives to detention exist: detainees can be given bond, can be released under the supervision of a community organization or can be given an electronic monitoring device. Those methods cost an average of $4.50 per person per day, compared too $300 per person per day to keep people in detention.

“We choose to support the private prison industry,” Karge said.

Father Larry Dowling, who spoke for Priests for Justice for Immigrants, said that the policy also is an issue of race with the penalties affecting people attempting to immigrate to the United States from Latin America.

“We need to focus on why people are coming here, and who created these issues in their countries,” Dowling said. “There are gangs, and there is a drug industry that people in the United States are supporting.”

Becky Hamilton, a St. Clement parishioner, said she came to be present and pray because she was shocked when she saw what was happening in the news.

“I was just so stunned that we would actually do this,” said Hamilton, a nurse by profession. “It makes me cry every time I think about it. The idea that we would actually take children from their mothers.”

Dani Jachino, also a parishioner, said the news coverage also brought her to tears.

“I just cannot imagine,” she said. “I put myself in the place of the children, and then I put myself in the place of the parents. It hurts my heart.”

Topics:

  • immigration

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