Cardinal calls for end to immigration raids

March 21, 2009 (CHICAGO) He led an inter-faith prayer forum Saturday calling on Pres. Barack Obama to stop deportations and start a dialogue on reform.

Chicago's Roman Catholic leader has entered the immigration debate before. However, now, he and Congressman Luis Gutierrez are hoping that with a new president will come new policy on deportations.

In Spanish, and then again in English, Francis Cardinal George told a packed parish, "You are not alone." In the audience, were many people who fear deportation on a daily basis, either for themselves or a loved one.

"If both my parents are deported, what would happen to my sisters and I? Where would we live and where would we go? We have no other relatives here. We'd be heartbroken," said a girl who called herself Brenda, the daughter of illegal immigrants.

"If we want to create a more peaceful society, we must strengthen families. We cannot strengthen families when people live in fear day-to-day," said Cardinal George.

The cardinal is issuing a call to action, encouraging President Obama to honor a campaign promise to re-tool the nation's immigration laws, and until that's done, not deport immigrants whose only crime is coming to this country illegally. The cardinal also wants illegal immigrants' to be offered a path to citizenship.

Saturday's event was Congressman Gutierrez's tenth stop on a 17-city tour and petition drive, intent on pressuring the president.

"He has a lot of competing interests, many advisors. We want to make sure that the community of faith is also a key advisor to the president of the United States," Gutierrez said.

While songs were sung inside during the prayer forum, demonstrators outside demanded current immigration laws be enforced. At a time when millions of Americans are out of work, one group says Congress should be focused on the economy, not allowing more low-wage workers into the country.

Rosanna Pulido, the director of the Illinois Minuteman, project tells ABC7:

"Cardinal George is responsible for every illegal immigrant who dies while crossing the border coming over here because he is luring them."

Those advocating a path to citizenship also pull at emotions. One teenager's father was sent back to Poland in 2006.

"He had a great life here in America. He lost it all. His business, his house and his family," said Peter Drezeinski.

In California earlier this week, President Obama said there will be no instant citizenship for illegal immigrants. He said they should go to the back of the line, so they aren't ahead of someone who has followed the law and waited outside of the U.S. for permission to enter.

Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.