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CURRENT ISSUE:  April 17, 2006VOL. 44, NO. 8Oakland, CA

Rallies for immigration reform






Maritza Monterrosa of Martinez joins in the April 10 interfaith candlelight vigil for immigrant rights in Pittsburg, coordinated by St. Peter Martyr Parish and CCISCO.
CNS photo/Greg Tarczynski

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- From Oakland to St. Louis, and from Jackson, Miss., to Washington, D.C., hundreds of thousands of people nationwide put on white shirts and picked up American flags to join rallies, marches and prayer services April 9 and 10 to call attention to the contributions of immigrants and to ask for changes in immigration law and policies.

Crowds estimated to be as large as 500,000 in Dallas April 9 and in Washington April 10 blocked city streets and surprised even organizers with their size.

The events were part of the National Day of Action for Immigrant Justice, aimed at opposing strict immigration enforcement legislation passed by the House in December and encouraging more comprehensive bills that would not criminalize illegal immigrants and those who provide services to them.

Organizers also support legislation that would make it possible for the estimated 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants to legalize their status.
n Oakland on April 10, thousands marched along International Boulevard from St. Louis Bertrand Church at 100th Avenue to City Hall, gathering momentum and participants as the march passed through St. Bernard, St. Elizabeth, St. Anthony and Mary Help of Christian parishes. Women pushed infants in strollers and some disabled adults rode in wheelchairs. Several priests, including Father Antonio Valdivia and Father Jesus Nieto, led the crowd in songs and prayers.

That evening in Pittsburg, five thousand community members from more than 10 congregations joined in a candlelight vigil, organized by St. Peter Martyr Parish and the Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization.

Participants marched from the church, stopping at six stations to pray and hear testimonies about issues affecting immigrant communities – legalization, family reunification, youth and education, just treatment at the border, worker rights and non-criminalization of undocumented immigrants.

Some marchers carried banners of the vigil theme, “We are not criminals, we are children of God.”

At both East Bay marches, participants chanted continuously, “Si, se puede” (Yes, it can be done), the phrase made famous by Cesar Chavez, founder of the United Farm Workers Union.

In several cities across the country, Catholic bishops gave speeches and led prayers.

At an April 10 vigil at Our Lady Queen of Angels Church in downtown Los Angeles, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony prayed in Spanish to “the God of one and all” to help members of Congress not be exclusionary, and he asked for the intercession of Mary, an immigrant who fled to Egypt with her son, Jesus.

In St. Louis the day before, Archbishop Raymond L. Burke said, “It is not right to make immigrants the scapegoats of social and political problems of our nation. It is profoundly unjust to place the blame for the acts of terrorism perpetrated by a few at the door of all immigrants.”

Oakland Bishop Allen Vigneron, in an April 7 letter to pastors and pastoral staffs, wrote of those who are “far away from home and family, living in the shadows, fearful of discovery and deportation.
"As the Body of Christ, we welcome them as our brothers and sisters and extend our compassion and community support without judgment.”

In Dallas as many as 500,000 demonstrators -- including bricklayers, students, lawyers, janitors, peace activists and Dallas Bishop Charles V. Grahmann -- marched peacefully through the downtown area April 9 in what is being called the largest civil rights demonstration in Dallas history.

Sporting a baseball cap given to him by a local interfaith social justice group, Bishop Grahmann walked at the front of the Palm Sunday march that began at Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe, snaked around downtown skyscrapers and ended at City Hall.

Martin Zuniga waves a banner during the candlelight vigil in Pittsburg.
Greg Tarczynski photo


Thousands of people march through East Oakland during an April 10 rally calling for compassionate immigration reform. The march ended at City Hall where representatives of some elected officials offered encouragement and support.
CNS photo/Greg Tarczynski


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