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CURRENT ISSUE:  January 8, 2007 • VOL. 45, NO. 1, Oakland, CA

Catholic agencies aid Latino families separated
by Dec. 12 immigration raids

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Immigrants whose families were split apart by the Dec. 12 immigration raids on meatpacking plants in six states are being aided by Catholic social service programs in at least three dioceses.

Meanwhile, immigrants’ rights and Latino groups were among organizations issuing statements decrying the raids.

Bishop Bernard J. Harrington of Winona, Minn., asked people of his diocese to relieve some of the burden on families left behind after the largest one-day immigration raids in U.S. history that included a Swift & Co. plant in Worthington, Minn. Immigration agents arrested 1,282 people at six Swift plants in Minnesota, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, Texas and Utah.

“Families have been separated, children left without parents and households left without a breadwinner,” said Bishop Harrington in a Dec. 21 statement. “Families that have lost their breadwinner now face a winter of uncertainty with no idea how long detainees will be held.”

He said people of the diocese could relieve some of that burden by helping provide food, medicine and money for heating bills and rent. He asked parishes, individuals and businesses to add to the $10,000 the diocese was contributing.

The Respect Life Office of the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas, quickly pulled together a load of baby items for families in Cactus, Texas, who were affected by the arrests at the Swift plant there. Just under 300 people were arrested in the small town in the Texas Panhandle.

Bishop John W. Yanta and about 15 priests from around the diocese paid a visit to Cactus Dec. 14. Among the questions he faced was “Why did they do this on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe?”

“An awful lot of people are terribly dismayed at that and disgusted that the authorities chose the most sacred day in the Mexican culture to undertake this raid,” the West Texas Catholic reported Bishop Yanta as saying.

In Denver, Catholic Charities asked for financial pledges to help the estimated 700 to 1,000 people affected by arrests at the Greeley, Colo., plant.

“The feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe raids on the Swift & Co. meatpacking plant in Greeley ... might be legal and an act of law enforcement, but they may not be entirely ‘just.’ At least not for spouses, children and other extended families,” said a statement from James Mauck, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Denver.

“Through no illegal activity or fault of their own, they face an uncertain future,” he said. “How will they pay for food, rent or keep warm? Winter in northern Colorado can be cruel.”

He said it may take months for affected families to achieve stability after having breadwinners deported.
Mauck said while “we fully support the enforcement and authority of the government to regulate and control immigration” it was disconcerting that lawmakers have not acknowledged that “current processes and tactics do not consider the bigger picture.... There are human beings, families, women and children, affected by these actions."


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