Cardinal George of the Archdiocese of Chicago today joined with other faith leaders in the Chicagoland area to call on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
The U.S. Senate in late June passed sweeping legislation leading to eventual citizenship for undocumented immigrants, but the House has yet to consider the bill, and has indicated it may take a piecemeal approach to immigration reform.
Joining Cardinal George for a press conference at St. James Cathedral in downtown Chicago were Rabbi Shoshanah Conover of Temple Sholom; Pastor Wilfredo de Jesus of New Life Covenant Church; Bishop Jeffrey Lee of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago; Imam Matthew Ramadan, deputy executive director of The Council of Islamic Organizations; and Rev. Donald Senior, president of Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.
Senior, who also serves as president of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago, said that although the various faiths may diverge on certain issues, they have “incredible solidarity and a solid wall of support” for immigration reform.
“The issue of immigration reform is not simply an exercise of civic responsibility, but for us it is a moral and religious issue, rising from deep within our faith heritage,” he said.
Cardinal George noted that 11 million undocumented immigrants live in the United States, with 1,100 families being torn apart by deportation every day.
“There are just too many lives at stake, aren’t there?” Cardinal George said. “But more than that, the soul of our nation is at stake. We’ve created a permanent underclass.”
De Jesus echoed Cardinal George’s words, stressing that deportation breaks apart an institution created by God – the family.
“God is watching how we deal with the family,” he said.
Ramadan brought a historical perspective to the issue, noting that today is the 150th anniversary of former President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, in which Lincoln spoke of “a new birth of freedom.”
“We are calling for no less than a new birth of freedom for the 11 million people who live in the shadows today in this country,” he said.
Conover reflected on the annual celebration of Passover, during which those of the Jewish faith commemorate their liberation from slavery in Egypt to begin a new nation under the leadership of Moses.
“There is only one problem with Passover this year,” Conover said. “It doesn’t come until the spring, and now is the time to act on behalf of immigration reform.”
Lee echoed Conover’s call for urgency, holding up a white cross bearing the name of an immigrant who died in the desert while attempting to cross the border between Mexico and the United States.
“We won’t give up,” he said.