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Immigration and the Church

Border immersion pilgrimage


On December 3rd to 7th, I had the opportunity to participate in an immersion pilgrimage border trip. The trip was organized in collaboration with the Office for Immigrant Affairs & Immigration Education at the Archdiocese of Chicago, and other organizations. This border trip involved a series of visits to agencies and institutions on the U.S-Mexico border where the participants had a chance to learn about the struggles and outcomes of migration/immigration.

Our group consisted of mostly Hispanic descent young adults; however there were three White-Caucasian individuals, and a member of Asian descent. I observed and realized how in the case of the Hispanic participants much of their understanding on the issue of migration and immigration was based on first-hand experience. The trip put made them think, and reflect on their own family background or history. This was because several of their family members perhaps decades ago, had once crossed the border legally or unauthorized; and throughout the years were able to adjust their status in the U.S. They began reflecting on the struggles their ancestors once went through in order to give them a life in the U.S.

The One-Parish retreat: El Retiro Una Sola Parroquia


I am a Catholic priest who pastors two churches which have significant Latino populations -- predominantly Mexican, with a significant presence of Central Americans in the larger church and a sprinkling of others. Most Americans assume the Hispanics are illegal, and I have no doubt that many are. I have been serving these communities for 16 years and the following describes something I developed which has proven very beneficial in breaking down barriers and developing understanding.

As I completed several years of pastoring St. James Church in Conway, SC and Resurrection Church in Loris, SC, I found myself agonizing over the mutual suspicion, lack of contact, and false assumptions among the English-speaking and Spanish-speaking parishioners. Both are significant parts of the parish population. I have come to know, appreciate and love both, with their distinctive characteristics, strengths and foibles, and shared Catholic faith.

Immigration challenges church to respond with courage


SAN ANTONIO — Sr. Mary McCauley, her silver hair framing a classic Irish face, could easily seem a diminutive nun in her 70s looking at retirement after a lifetime in the classroom or convent administration.

But circumstances and, she would say, divine providence put her at St. Bridget Church as pastoral administrator in May 2008, when hundreds of FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents swooped down on the tiny town of Postville in northeastern Iowa to round up hundreds of undocumented -— mostly Guatemalan —- workers at a kosher meat-processing plant.

Alerted to the raid, McCauley put out the word to the workers and their families: "Tell them to come to the church."

For many, the Postville story has come to exemplify the human toll exacted by a failed immigration policy and the challenge to churches to respond with courage and compassion on an issue of decisive importance to our national identity —- and even possibly the fate of the church in the United States.

Immigration and the Church: a new blog


Read the new blog at

The National Catholic Reporter-sponsored Celebration conference on immigration reform, held in San Antonio Jan 12-14, highlighted the complexity of a crisis decisive for our nation and the future of our church. The existence of an estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the shadows of our economy and society for lack of coherent paths to legalization challenges us both in personal conscience and as a religious community that professes every Sunday at worship that all are welcome at God's table, that there are no aliens or strangers, only brothers and sisters.

In Mexico, a debate over migrants deaths


MEXICO CITY -- The director of a migrant shelter in northern Mexico has rebuked the federal government for questioning the results of a survey by the National Human Rights Commission, which reported more than 10,000 undocumented migrants were kidnapped over a six-month period of 2010.

"The government is completely wrong," said Father Pedro Pantoja, director of the Belen migrant shelter in Saltillo. "They're debunking the fact kidnappings happen, saying that it's insignificant, that the number is low. There's an intention of diminishing the facts."

The survey, released Jan. 6, reported at least 215 mass abductions of migrants heading north to the United States between April and September with an average of at least 50 victims being kidnapped each time by groups linked to organized crime. Commission ombudsman Raul Placencia told reporters that local police and officials from the National Immigration Institute assisted the "well-organized groups" in some of the abductions, which usually required migrants to call relatives for ransoms.

Latin American church leaders look to 2011

YUCAY, Peru -- In the waning days of 2010, residents filled the streets of this tiny Andean town, showering a statue of Our Lady of the Nativity with flower petals and dancing in native costumes to usher in the new year.

But the dancers, many of whom were Quechua-speaking farmers, looked ahead with trepidation. Some worried that rainfall resembled last year's weather, when February floods triggered landslides, washed out roads and bridges, and destroyed crops. Some people who lost harvests last year could not afford to plant this year.

After the disaster, the Catholic Church stepped in with emergency aid and long-term development assistance. Church agencies did the same in other countries in the region: from Haiti, where an earthquake in January 2010 killed as many as 300,000 people and left nearly 2 million homeless, to Colombia, where recent floods overwhelmed five towns, killing 300 people and affecting another 2.2 million.

New Illinois law allows pastoral workers to visit immigrant detainees

CHICAGO -- Supporters of the religious rights of immigrants detained by the federal government celebrated the passage of a law requiring Illinois state and county detention facilities to allow detained immigrants to meet with pastoral workers.

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, of which the Archdiocese of Chicago and many other Catholic institutions are members, held a press conference Feb. 17 to spread the word about the law at a Methodist church across the street from Chicago, Cook County and Illinois state offices.

The law grants religious workers "reasonable access" to immigrants being held in state and county facilities.


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