Chicago Archbishop Calls on Obama to Stop Immigrant Raids

By Kalyn Belsha in News on Mar 22, 2009 6:45PM

Amid growing frustration for comprehensive immigration reform, Cardinal Francis George is calling on President Obama to end raids on illegal immigrants and pass new legislation this year. The Chicago Archbishop framed the debate in a moral context, saying the issue was a "matter of conscience" and inherent to building a peaceful society.

"We cannot strengthen families when people live in fear from day to day," George told a crowd of hundreds who gathered at an Albany Park church on Saturday. "Such reform would be a clear sign this administration is truly about change."

The prayer forum was organized by the Archdiocese of Chicago and comprised several immigrant-rights and religious groups. The meeting was one of several that have taken place in recent months as legislators and advocates push for immigration reform at the federal level.

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus met with the president last week and remain hopeful he will tackle the issue this year. But the president did not expressly say he would stop raids, according to U.S. Rep Luis Gutierrez (D-Illinois), who was present at both the meeting and prayer forum. Gutierrez, a strong advocate for ending raids and deportations, began a 20-city national tour of prayer vigils and town-hall meetings in November. He has collected thousands of signatures on petitions asking for reform.

Concerns about the economy have taken precedence in Congress lately and some members say they are not looking forward to a renewed, heated immigration debate. About 30 members of the Chicago Minutemen Project, an immigration-reduction group, protested outside the church yesterday, arguing illegal immigration takes potential jobs away from U.S. citizens and permanent residents. [Trib, NBC5]