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 CNS Story:

DEMS-IMMIGRATION Sep-4-2008 (530 words) With photos. xxxn

Advocates call for comprehensive immigration reform with march, rally

By Mike Stone
Catholic News Service

DENVER (CNS) -- About 1,000 people showed up at Denver's Rude Park Aug. 28 to march in favor of comprehensive immigration reform.

The rally, held to coincide with the Democratic National Convention in the city, ended a mile away in Lincoln Park. The march and rally were supported by a handful of faith representatives, including two Catholic priests -- Father Bernie Schmitz, vicar for clergy for the Denver Archdiocese, and Father Jorge de los Santos, vicar for Hispanic ministry.

Father Schmitz gave a brief invocation to the marchers at Lincoln Park. In prepared remarks released to the press, Father Schmitz noted that immigration is often a polarizing topic.

"There are very strong emotions on all sides of the issue," he said. "And often our emotions can block us from seeing the vital importance of comprehensive immigration reform for the benefit of our society, our country and our world."

He noted that he finds guidance in two basic concepts of Catholic social teaching. He pointed first to the "fundamental dignity of every human being from conception." The second principle he mentioned is the "common good."

"The common good always looks for the betterment of society which will help it to reflect more the qualities and attributes of our Creator -- those of beauty, justice, mercy, compassion and a desire for unity even in the midst of the tremendously diverse community we are in the United States," he said.

Father Schmitz's thoughts were echoed by the Rev. Philip E. Campbell, a United Church of Christ minister who is director of ministry at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver.

Rev. Campbell said the immigration issue "strikes the core of the dignity of the individual. We need to recognize that."

Father de los Santos shared a statement from Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput to his archdiocesan newspaper, the Denver Catholic Register.

"We need immigration reform now," the archbishop said, "and we need the kind that respects the dignity of all human persons as people created in the image and likeness of God. The longer our leaders avoid this urgent task, the more everybody has to lose.

"Our country will lose the chance to improve our national security and restore the rule of law in our workplaces and communities," he added. "No one, including the church, condones breaking the law, but we also need to recognize when our laws are unjust and unresponsive to the human realities we face."

Many of the marchers said they were compelled to attend because of personal experiences with immigration policies.

Two Denver teachers, Elizabeth Pino and Lisa Levad, described the plight of one college-age woman who has been in the country illegally since she was 4. The student, they said, had been accepted to college in New Mexico but can't attend for financial reasons. And the student can't get financial aid because she is in the country illegally.

Having no family in Mexico, the student told the Denver Catholic Register that she can't return to Mexico to enter the United State legally.

"Sometimes I feel like an orphan," she said.


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