Chicago Catholics rally downtown for immigration reform

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Celia Gonzalez was  11 when her mother — eight months pregnant — led her family across the border from Mexico to the United States in a 12-hour trek.

Gonzalez, now 52, still remembers the fear of being caught and the constant anticipation that any sound might signal trouble.

“I remember they told us that if we heard a noise ,we had to throw ourselves to the floor and to not make any noise,” the Humboldt Park resident said Saturday. “I still remember that.”

Gonzalez has lost relatives trying to enter the United States illegally, and some of her family members are separated from their loved ones. She joined hundreds of  Catholics at a prayer vigil Saturday in downtown Chicago to call for immigration reform and commemorate the 10th anniversary of the creation of the Catholic Campaign for Immigration Reform.

“We’re asking for nothing more than justice,” Deacon Dismas Fernandez, of Blessed Sacrament Parish, told hundreds in front of Holy Name Cathedral, before leading a walk to Federal Plaza.

Hundreds carried posters shaped like broken hearts — many with the names of families separated due to immigration laws. They sang hymns in English and Spanish as passers-by snapped photos.

Cecilia Garcia was among hundreds of Catholics who gathered Saturday in downtown Chicago Saturday for a prayer vigil to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the creation of the Catholic Campaign for Immigration Reform. Her husband is back in Mexico after being

deported. Tina Sfondeles / Sun-Times

Cecilia Garcia has been away from her husband for three years, since he was detained in 2012 and then deported, leaving behind Garcia and their five children — now 9, 12, 15, 16 and 17.

“I’ve been on this journey for three years now, and it’s just very difficult,” said Garcia, 40. “They tell you to do petitions. They tell you to do the paperwork. I have done that — and nothing. It’s laws that they have to recognize are not only affecting undocumented people but also American citizens.”

Garcia said she is hopeful that immigration reform will happen: “We have to — all of us together as American citizens — stand up for what’s been taken from us.”

Hundreds of Catholics gathered Saturday in downtown Chicago to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the creation of the Catholic Campaign for Immigration Reform. Tina Sfondeles / Sun-Times

A statement from Archbishop Blase Cupich — who missed the prayer vigil because he was officiating his niece’s wedding out of town — was read to the cheering crowd at Federal Plaza. Just days away from Pope Francis’ first visit to America, Cupich reminded the crowd of the pope’s call to care for the poor and oppressed smf called for Catholics in Chicago to continue their efforts to help immigrants.

“With Pope Francis, we, the church of Chicago, reaffirm our commitment to walk with these sisters and brothers of ours, who, despite the inaction of our legislators and the continued threat of deportation, continue to work hard, raise strong families and contribute greatly to our communities,” the statement quoted Cupich as saying. “I call on all Catholics and people of good will to work towards the day when our sisters and brothers in God will be able to emerge from the shadows of society and to add the fullness of their light to the promise and future of our country.

“Let us remember that we are all immigrants.”

Many said they hope Pope Francis will urge Congress to enact immigration reform during his coming visit to Washington, D.C.

“I know he will continue raising the cries of the immigrants whose voices are hoarse from crying out so long,”  said Elena Segura, director of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office for Immigrant Affairs and Immigration Education.

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