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Ahead Of Trump Crackdown On Sanctuary Cities, South Side Clergy Offer Help To Immigrants: ‘You Are Not Alone’

The faith-based leaders want to connect immigrant families to legal help, mental health services and serve as a sanctuary to those who need it.

Father Homero Sanchez of St. Rita of Cascia Parish speaks at a press conference Friday morning.

CHICAGO LAWN — As the Trump administration plans to send Border Patrol officers to arrest undocumented immigrants in Chicago and other sanctuary cities, Southwest Side faith leaders are coming together to reassure undocumented people they are not alone.

Father Homero Sanchéz of St. Rita of Cascia Catholic Church, Rabbi Ricky Kamil of the Illinois Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Jeremy Chia of L’Arche Chicago, and Father Anthony Pizzo of the Midwest Augustinians are calling on other clergy to get involved, they said at a press conference at St. Rita, 6243 S. Fairfield Ave. The group will help connect undocumented immigrants to legal help and mental health services.

They’ll also be working to inform immigrants of their rights.

“We’re coming to say that no matter what the administration says, we want to make sure that we are standing with immigrant families,” said Imelda Salazar, an organizer with the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP). “We can’t let fear prevail.”

In a renewed attempt to crackdown on undocumented immigrants, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be using 100 tactical officers from Customs and Border Patrol in everyday arrests in Chicago and other sanctuary cities from February to May.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot criticized President Donald Trump’s new effort targeted at undocumented immigrants, calling the tactic “fear-mongering and xenophobic.” 

RELATED: As Trump Plans To Bring Border Patrol To Sanctuary Cities, Mayor Lightfoot Pushes Back: ‘We Will Not Be Bullied’

Salazar said that the upcoming U.S. Census count is a major concern as some families worry the information they provide can be used against them. Southwest Organizing Project is working with the U.S. Census Bureau to properly train census takers.

“People need to know their rights, but it’s Census 2020 so they also need to be counted,” Salazar said.

Earlier this week, Congressman Jesus “Chuy” Garcia denounced the Trump administration’s latest effort targeting Chicago and other sanctuary cities, criticizing the president for attempting to scare immigrants and refugees during the critical U.S. Census count.

RELATED: Trump Crackdown On Sanctuary Cities A ‘Crass’ Effort To Scare Immigrants Away From Census, Officials Say

Chicago Lawn has been home to a large number of immigrant families since the ’90s. St. Rita was one of the first parishes to address the racial and demographic changes the neighborhood was experiencing, so it is fitting that the church would take the lead on an effort to help immigrants, Pizzo said.

“We pride ourselves on being a sanctuary city, and this is a sanctuary,” Pizzo said. “It is a sanctuary of faith, so we need to make sure people know and understand that this is a secure place to come to.”

The parish works closely with Southwest Organizing Project and the archdiocese’s immigration office to help low-income folks struggling because of their status. They also help Pastoral Migratoria, which helps undocumented folks on the path to citizenship.

“They can speak to any of the trained leaders, who then determine what their particular needs are,” Pizzo said. “It’s very active. This parish has produced over 100 new citizens, and that encourages people to see what’s possible.”

Pizzo is also hopeful that other faith leaders will answer the call.

“This is going to be the start of continual efforts to make sure that people are informed of their rights, and know they’re not alone,” Pizzo said.

“The question is how are churches, mosques, and synagogues going to respond to the call?” he asked. “Will we become real sanctuary venues like we were in the Middle Ages?”


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