Concerned about the growing animosity toward undocumented
immigrants epitomized by armed civilian patrols at the
U.S.-Mexican border, some Hispanic Catholics hope to solve the
illegal immigration problem through a different sort of tactic:
Last month, organizers of a prayer campaign distributed
thousands of white ribbons at Catholic churches throughout
Arizona asking parishioners to pray for a resolution that
"respects the dignity of the person."
The Arizona campaign will continue for two months.
But on Tuesday, national Catholic church leaders in Washington,
D.C., launched a major campaign aimed at garnering support among
the nation's 67.3 million Catholics for comprehensive
immigration changes, including a broad legalization program for
undocumented immigrants. There are about 11 million undocumented
immigrants in the United States, according to the latest
estimates by the Pew Hispanic Center.
The national campaign is supported by 20 Catholic organizations,
including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. One main goal
is to counter growing anti-immigrant fervor that has led to
citizens trying to enforce immigration laws and the enactment of
restrictive immigration laws, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick,
archbishop of Washington, D.C., said at a news conference.
The church faces an uphill battle, said Rick Oltman, western
field director for the Federation for American Immigration
Reform, an organization in Washington, D.C., that favors tighter
"I don't think they are going to be able to overcome the pubic
sentiment calling for the government to enforce our immigration
laws," Oltman said. "The majority of Americans are sympathetic
to the plight of people who are trying to better themselves but
. . . realize we can't take everyone."
In Arizona, organizers are collecting prayer cards and holding
community meetings throughout the state. The campaign will
culminate with recommendations organizers plan to present to
state and national political, business and religious leaders in
"Instead of fear and divisiveness, we believe the solution is
appealing to the moral conscience of the nation," said former
state Sen. Armando Ruiz, director of Mary's Ministries, a
Catholic-based organization in Phoenix leading the campaign.
Ruiz said the prayer campaign was organized in response to the
Minuteman Project, a group of armed civilians who patrolled a
23-mile stretch of the Mexican border in southern Arizona in
April to report undocumented immigrants to the U.S. Border
Patrol.Volunteers in the prayer campaign distributed 125,000
white ribbons at more than 60 parishes throughout the state. The
ribbons are intended to be worn as a sign of solidarity for a
"just" solution to the immigration problem, he said.
The campaign received support from the three Catholic bishops
serving Arizona: the Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix, the Rev.
Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, and the Rev. Donald E. Pelotte of
Gallup, N.M., he said.
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