Advocates speak up, pray for detained immigrants

| January 2, 2013 | 5 Comments
John Joslin, right, a member of St. Stanislaus in St. Paul, and Chris Engen of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Minneapolis stand in front of the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center in St. Paul. The two are part of a group that sponsors a prayer vigil in front of the center on the first Sunday of each month. Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

John Joslin, right, a member of St. Stanislaus in St. Paul, and Chris Engen of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Minneapolis stand in front of the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center in St. Paul. The two are part of a group that sponsors a prayer vigil in front of the center on the first Sunday of each month. Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

As the Christmas season draws to a close, a small but passionate group of people will celebrate the Feast of Epiphany, Jan. 6, by praying outside of a detention center near downtown St. Paul.

The feast day coincides with Immigration Sunday Minnesota, and this group will honor the day by gathering to pray in front of a facility where immigrants suspected of violating immigration laws are detained.

Starting in 2008, Catholic parishes and organizations banded together with other local churches to sponsor vigils on the first Sunday of every month. It just so happens that this month’s vigil coincides with Epiphany Sunday.

Members of this group and other activists say that immigrants often are detained for minor infractions, for unspecified periods of time and given fewer legal resources than U.S. citizens, plus have to suffer the trauma of being separated from their families. Added to that is that many do not speak English.

“These people are undocumented and that’s against the law, but what we’re saying is the punishment doesn’t fit the crime,” said John Joslin, a member of the Interfaith Coalition on Immigration, an ecumenical  group that sponsors the vigils each month.

The hosts for the Jan. 6 vigil are the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, who helped start up the gatherings. They are also part of the Interfaith Coalition on Immigration.

“It began after a woman we had been accompanying was detained there one day short of six months,” said Ginger Hedstrom, a CSJ consociate working in the CSJ Justice Office. “The number of people who were aware that Ramsey County was detaining migrants was minimal.”

This group, hopes to change that by spending a half hour a month visiting the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center during the time period when families and friends are allowed to visit those who are detained. About 50 people come every month, and they hope to show support to the visitors, plus send a message to those inside that there are people who care about them.

Joslin, a member of St. Stanislaus, said he once was nonsympathetic to immigrants, especially those who entered the country illegally. But, he had a change of heart and now is working to create support for detainees.

Hedstrom said: “My view on immigration changes every single time I come into contact with another migrant – coming to know the people who live the story. I hope that in 2013, each and every one of us can make a commitment to get to know at least one migrant and learn their story.”

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  • Jenny Peterson

    Although those who are involved in this program are obviously well-meaning, they are so astoundingly ignorant that they play into the hands of those who are local Latin- Americans who have exploited those who have paid them to be brought into the country illegally.  It is grossly inappropriate for the Archbishop to be involved in this except to provide comfort-care to those who are jailed while awaiting deportation. 

    I pity those who are brought here and are trafficed as sex-slaves, even at the age of 8-9, are forced to live 20-30 to a house as they make illegal documents and participate in the very violent drug trade.   I pity those who came here illegally and are too old or sick to be able to function, but can’t get away from those who have taken money from them for their passage to the US. The sociopaths who are  perpetrators of these crimes show up in Church and manipulate clergy and well-meaning church members just as those Italian-Americans associated with the Mafia did on the East Coast of the US.

    The laws regarding entry into the US are obviously set to protect the US population from the spread of disease and the criminals coming from other cultures.  I personally have dealt with the illegal immigrants who are brought into the local hospitals with serious communicable diseases, like untreatable TB, after they have been intermingling with your families —They handle food in fast food restaurants as employees, while having bowel parasites, and ride with you and your kids on the metro transit buses.  They are service employees in hotels, locally, while they have easily-spread infestations of lice and scabies.  It costs millions of dollars for county and state tax-payers to pick up the cost of medical care for them, annually.  It is not appropriate for the Church to be involved in bucking immigration laws.  Evidently nothing was learned from the mess created after the Church took it upon itself to handle pedophiles instead of reporting these crimes to law enforcement.  Those of us who sit in the pews are tired of the costs to us for the poor judgment of the clergy.      

  • Carmen

    If some one violated immigration laws (euphemism for some one who did not follow the legal process to enter/stay in the USA), they are not an immigrant, they are an illegal alien.  Those of us who came here legally are done an injustice when law breakers are thrown in with us.

    This does not mean one cannot feel for their plight, but please, use the correct term, or else English and the Law neither one have any meaning…and then Bishops wonder why the HHS mandate gets put forth and the laity stop listening when they talk about Faith and Morals.

    BTW, caring for those who came here ILLEGALLY is moral; it is immoral to give them the same appellation as those of us who came here LEGALLY.

    • Jenny Peterson

      Very well said—Let’s pray that the US Catholic Bishops soon understand your message!

  • Tony_Petroski

    I read the article in the print version of “The Catholic Spirit” and wrote it off as the typical sophomoric meanderings I used to be force-fed by “The Minnesota Daily” during my liberal arts days–the kids will have their say.  But after being subjected to a puerile and partisan sermon at my church in which the faithful were told that “Jesus was the first immigrant” (because he had to flee to Egypt) I re-read the article.  What gives?  I can get this stuff straight off CNN.  Why do I need my own church feeding me agitprop?  

    I learned that “The Catholic bishops of Minnesota have designated Sunday, Jan. 6, the Feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, as Immigration Sunday Minnesota.  The day is an opportunity to learn more about the Church’s teaching on immigration and raise awareness…”  

    A few years ago we were taught that “Jesus was the first homeless person” as his family was forced to take accommodations in a stable.  Now Jesus is the first undocumented immigrant.  Is someone in the doctrine department working on the next one?  “Jesus as the first food-stamp recipient”?  

    The faithful at my mass, generous, kind and openhearted people, had to sit through a lecture implying they were craven, pig-headed nativists for not welcoming with open arms an endless stream of people made in the image of God from the four corners of the earth–all merely seeking their “human rights” of free housing, free food, free medical care, free education, free cell phones and free lectures raising awareness of their plight and enlightened Church doctrine.  It almost makes a man want to get on a raft and try to make it to Cuba.

    The politics of this is so transparent one wonders just how dense the Catholic bishops can be.  The goal of our national leaders is to make “citizens” out of “undocumented immigrants” in order to inflate Democrat vote totals.  Yes, those same Democrats, the Pelosis and Bidens of the country who back the marginalization of Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular.  Having been slapped in the face with the contraceptive mandates still rolling out and having proved the “Catholic vote” to be a national joke, those same politicians must be having a good laugh on the beaches of Hawaii (no doubt between seminars on better serving the poor) as they watch the Catholics self-destructing.

    Oh well, we must leave it up to God.  After all, it was our current president who said “You don’t bring a knife to a gunfight.”  And now I’m saying it:  “You don’t send the Powder Puff Girls to the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.”

    • Jenny Peterson

      Very well said—There are thousands of Catholics in Minnesota who completely agree with you. 

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