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Franciscans Stand With Immigrant Brothers and Sisters

Images from the ‘Stand Up Immigrants’ campaign pamphlet (Photos courtesy of Octavio Duran)

As part of a continuing effort to demonstrate the Franciscan tradition of reaching out and embracing the marginalized, HNP friars and partners-in-ministry are doing what they can to keep families and communities together by educating and standing in solidarity with the millions of immigrants who live in fear about their status in the United States.

Building a Network
In New York City, The Migrant Center at St. Francis of Assisi, in collaboration with faith and immigrant rights advocate organizations, has launched a campaign called “Stand Up Immigrants: Build the Network.”

“The results of the November 2016 presidential election struck fear and uncertainty into the hearts of many immigrants, especially those who are undocumented. Faced with these challenges, immigrant leaders have recognized the need to protect and empower them, and the most viable way to achieve this is to organize,” said Julian Jagudilla, OFM, director of the center, in a pamphlet about the initiative that was distributed on May 11.

The document describes the campaign’s goals to build a network of information, support and basic protection for immigrants in their local communities.  The main components of this network are the creation of small clusters of protection and centers of information and support. “It is an absolute must that accurate, responsible information and education be made available, and that necessary means be provided to ensure that immigrants feel supported,” said Julian, who was named director of the center in 2013. Details about the campaign can be obtained by emailing standupimmigrants@gmail.com.

In addition to this national campaign, representatives from various Province ministries in and around New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and North Carolina have continued to voice their support for undocumented immigrants, emphasizing the Franciscan value of welcoming the stranger.

Interfaith Efforts
In Camden, N.J., St. Anthony of Padua Parish hosted ‘No One Stands Alone’, a May 10 event coordinated by Faith in New Jersey to let the immigrant community know that clergy of various faiths stand with them in supporting honest immigration policies and the fair treatment of people who currently reside in the United States.

“The evening began with a bilingual Mass at which Rabbi Larry Sernovitz read the first reading in Hebrew for the community. Listening to Deuteronomy 10, the congregation was reminded of the Judeo-Christian tradition of being a people in the foreign land of Egypt,” said Hugh Macsherry, OFM, pastor, who celebrated the Mass.

“As we ended, representatives of the Islamic Center of South Jersey, Camden Bible Tabernacle, and Masonville United Methodist Church, as well as other Catholic parishes from the Diocese of Camden, processed into the sanctuary to share how the various faith traditions respect people in migration. Afia Yunus spoke as a Muslim woman inspired by her faith to serve the immigrant community through legal counsel,” Hugh said. “About 150 people attended the event and were very appreciative.”

Hugh Macsherry and an attendee, and right, Larry Sernovitz speaking at the ‘No One Stands Alone’ event (Photo courtesy of Hugh)

Immigrants and Workers March
On May 1, Abel Garcia, OFM, Erick Lopez, OFM, Charles Miller, OFM, and Christian Seno, OFM, were among the peaceful supporters who went to Washington for the annual workers’ protest calling for greater protections and benefits for workers and highlighting the contributions of immigrants.

“We marched from Dupont Circle down to the White House with a banner that read ‘Be Instruments of Peace.’ As Pope Paul VI said, ‘If you want peace, work for justice.’ We resist all forms of injustice against immigrants, families, and working people,” said Christian.

For more than a century, the first day in May has been a holiday around the world for labor groups and different organizations.. This year, May Day in the U.S. was marked by major immigration protests across the country organized in response to President Trump’s immigration policies and travel ban.

Abel Garcia, Erick Lopez, Christian Seno with HNP postulants and other participants of the Immigrants and Workers March (Photo courtesy of Christian)

Immigrants’ Rights and Resources
In North Carolina, Immaculate Conception Parish in Durham held its second “Know Your Rights” workshop and legal clinic last month.

“Approximately 500 parishioners attended the two clinics held in the church’s sanctuary,” said Maryann Crea, a staff member. “Immigration was discussed at the most recent social justice meeting, but there is great frustration around the issue. While immigrants in the community are grateful for the practical help the church provides, they long for meaningful change.”

In March, an immigration gathering at the church brought together 1300 immigrants and their supporters to affirm Durham as a city of inclusion. Community leaders, including Durham’s school superintendent, chief of police, a representative from the sheriff’s office, and members of the city council pledged to collaborate with ICE only to the extent mandated by law. The North Carolina Congress of Latino Organizations (NCCOLO) and Durham Congregations, Associations and Neighborhoods (Durham C.A.N.) organized the March 5 gathering.

— Johann Cuervo is communications assistant for Holy Name Province.

Editor’s note: Information about immigration and other issues of national interest can be found on the Justice and Peace page of the HNP website.

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