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 CNS Story:

IMMIGRATION-RALLIES Apr-3-2006 (1,040 words) With photos. xxxn

Calls for prayer, rallies, boycott mark immigration debate

By Patricia Zapor
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The immigration-related rallies and marches of the last month will be capped off by an April 10 rally in Washington and a planned one-day work boycott May 1.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles Cardinal Roger M. Mahony called for April 5 to be observed as a special day of prayer and fasting for just and humane immigration reform.

"Let us pray for our legislators and for all those who would be affected by the legislation under consideration," said Cardinal Mahony's statement. "Let us fast in solidarity with those members of our community, especially the undocumented, who often endure lives of deprivation and hardship."

He encouraged all Catholics to attend Mass or set aside time on April 5 to pray for legislators, for humane immigration laws and for those people who will be most affected by such laws.

Cardinal Mahony quoted from Pope Benedict XVI's first encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est" ("God Is Love"), which said, "Only my readiness to encounter my neighbor and to show him love makes me sensitive to God as well. Only if I serve my neighbor can my eyes be opened to what God does for me and how much he loves me."

For the second weekend in a row, cities around the country saw thousands of people gather to advocate for immigration law reform that offers current illegal immigrants a chance to legalize their status and includes a guest worker program.

Rallies in California, Oklahoma, New York, Indiana, Arizona and Wisconsin followed those of the previous week, which drew more than half a million people in Los Angeles and thousands more in other cities. Across the country, thousands more students staged protests during the school day.

Those at the events also protested the provisions of a House-passed immigration bill that would criminalize the 11 million to 12 million people in the country illegally, as well as make it a crime to provide assistance to them.

Both that bill and a version passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee March 27 include provisions to expand the Border Patrol and other enforcement measures. The Senate was continuing debate on various versions of immigration legislation the first week in April.

In Oklahoma, Tulsa Bishop Edward J. Slattery joined Cardinal Mahony in saying that if a law is passed criminalizing the act of aiding illegal immigrants "then I will become a criminal."

"When it becomes a crime to love the poor and serve their needs, then I will be the first to go to jail for this crime, and I pray that every priest and every deacon in this diocese will have the courage to walk with me into that prison," he said April 2 at St. Francis Xavier Church in Tulsa.

Cardinal Mahony at the beginning of Lent said he would ask the priests of his archdiocese to join him in defying any law that made it illegal to offer social services and other assistance to illegal immigrants.

In a March 27 interview with the Catholic Herald, Milwaukee archdiocesan newspaper, Auxiliary Bishop Richard J. Sklba also said he would not obey such a law. "Immoral legislation cannot bind anyone," he said.

In articles published in diocesan and secular newspapers, two New York bishops wrote columns calling for a broad approach to immigration reform.

Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre said in a column that appeared in both the Long Island Catholic diocesan newspaper and Newsday that while immigration laws are important to protect the country "laws and practices should not be so draconian that they effectively close our borders to the still large numbers of immigrants who seek political or economic asylum or who wish to begin new lives with renewed hope."

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn said in a column in the Tablet, his diocese's newspaper, that "it has been proven many times that the overwhelming majority of people who enter the United States pose no threat whatsoever to our security. It has also been demonstrated clearly that their presence and their labor, which takes nothing away from American citizens, (are) actually a major contribution to our economy."

The bishops of New Mexico issued a pastoral letter that said more than 80 percent of agricultural workers are foreign-born, as are a majority of laborers in the meatpacking and poultry industries and more than a third of dishwashers, janitors, maids and cooks.

"If all undocumented workers were to be deported, the impact on our economy would be severe," said the joint statement by Santa Fe Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan, Gallup Bishop Donald E. Pelotte and Las Cruces Bishop Ricardo Ramirez.

In a March 27statement the bishops of the six Illinois dioceses issued a joint statement denouncing the current immigration system and outlining elements they said should be included in a new law.

The statement said the vitality and economic success of the United States come, to a great extent, as a result of immigration. They said they recognize that the homelands of people who wish to come to the U.S. also have a responsibility to improve life for them. "Yet as immigrants do continue to come here, we also know that their vitality, work and presence have made and will continue to make our nation even greater," they said.

The statement was jointly issued by Chicago Cardinal Francis E. George and Bishops Joseph L. Imesch of Joliet, Thomas G. Doran of Rockford, George J. Lucas of Springfield, Daniel R. Jenky of Peoria and Edward K. Braxton of Belleville.

At April 3 press conferences in Washington, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Boston and New York, speakers outlined a whole range of issues that could be affected by immigration legislation, including the barriers people currently face if they try to immigrate legally and how making it a crime to be in the country illegally (it currently is a violation of civil law) would affect immigrants and their families.

An April 4 press conference was planned to announce a May 1 Great American Boycott of 2006. The boycott was being organized by the Los Angeles-based groups that organized the March 25 rally that drew more than half a million people.

- - -

Contributing to this roundup were Marilyn Duck in Tulsa and Brian T. Olszewski in Milwaukee.


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