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Monday, August 25, 2008

Holy Cross/IHM's Letter to McCain and Obama

The immigration committee at Holy Cross/IHM Parish is in the midst of a letter campaign. Committee chair Jose Alonso wrote a letter on the topic of immigration which was read by another committee member during announcements at the 10:30 Mass at Holy Cross yesterday. Parishioners had the opportunity to sign copies of the letter after Mass ended--a bunch of us stood around with clipboards and copies of the letter in English and Spanish. Copies will be sent to both presidential candidates; I just got an email saying over 300 letters were signed and returned. The letter drive will continue next weekend at the 9 a.m. Mass at Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Here is the English version of the letter:

“This country does not care about liberty when there are immigration raids taking place.”
- A teenager from the Back of the Yards, Chicago, IL

Recently, several Mexican-American youth from our parish, Holy Cross/IHM, in the Back of the Yards traveled to Philadelphia with our pastor, Father Bruce Wellems. During the trip, the group visited one of the greatest symbols of this country: the Liberty Bell. One young man stood near the Liberty Bell, but he would not look at it. The rest of the group was busy taking pictures, while he stood apart with his head down. Having visited several historic places, our pastor thought that perhaps he was just tired. He then approached the young man and asked if he had seen the Liberty Bell. The young man then made the comment stated above. How can there be true freedom when the government is rejecting the poor and those who are oppressed? How can this be a nation who cares about the freedom of others when they unjustly chase immigrants?

These questions reflect one of the most pressing concerns of the Back of the Yards today, a community comprised predominantly of Mexican-American immigrants. Even now, more than 100 years after Upton Sinclair documented the struggles of immigrants in this small neighborhood on the southside of Chicago, the immigrant spirit of hope lives on. However, the hope that our great country represents is endangered when our community is threatened with tearing apart its families, depriving its children of the right to an education in this country, and losing the opportunity to earn a dignified living.

Admittedly, there was anger in the young man’s statement. Our pastor responded to his statement by reminding him that the Liberty Bell is cracked. It is not perfect, and so too, with freedom – we are still a people who are not completely free. We are still searching for a way to respect the rights of all people and healing is needed. It will take time, but it can only happen with the efforts of those who truly care and believe that freedom, safety and respect of all people is possible. He represents the next generation of Americans and his statement represents the need to reaffirm the values that this country was founded upon. Our pastor was able to point to the following biblical quote inscribed on the Liberty Bell, to comfort the young man, “Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto ALL the Inhabitants thereof.

We are asking for you to be courier of the values reflected in this quote by supporting just immigration reform. This country has a history of compassion towards immigrants and we are now asking you to continue that tradition. We are asking that you be an advocate for our community by: (1) supporting the unification of our families; (2) defending the opportunity to have our children educated in this country; and (3) preserving our chance to earn a dignified living. Thank for your time in reading this letter. Good luck and God Bless.

For more specifics on the kinds of situations many of my neighbors and fellow parishioners are facing, I highly recommend this 2006 article from U.S. Catholic.

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