2010-03-10 / Features

Immaculate Conception Hosts Immigration Reform Service

BY JASON D. ANTOS

Immaculate Conception Parish hosted an ecumenical prayer service for immigration reform on Sunday, March 7 in Astoria. Representatives from the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. Demetrios, Grace Lutheran Church and Catholic parishes of Astoria and Long Island City were present. Roman Catholic Bishop of Brooklyn and Queens Nicholas DiMarzio spoke on the issue of immigration before a full congregation. Photo Jason D. Antos Immaculate Conception Parish hosted an ecumenical prayer service for immigration reform on Sunday, March 7 in Astoria. Representatives from the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. Demetrios, Grace Lutheran Church and Catholic parishes of Astoria and Long Island City were present. Roman Catholic Bishop of Brooklyn and Queens Nicholas DiMarzio spoke on the issue of immigration before a full congregation. Photo Jason D. Antos Clergy of Astoria and Long Island City, and including a Brooklyn congregation, United, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens, the Catholic Migration Office of the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens and Queens Congregations United for Action sponsored an ecumenical prayer service for immigration reform at Immaculate Conception Church, 27-47 29th St. and Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria on March 7. City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. (DAstoria) and former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone Sr. were also present to show their support.

The featured speaker at the service was Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, Roman Catholic bishop of Brooklyn and Queens.

DiMarzio, who sat on the United Nations Bishops Committee for Migration and is an internationally known authority on immigration law and social justice, spoke in depth about the current political issues facing immigration in the United States today.

“We are here today to recognize the suffering of all immigrants,” DiMarzio said.

As chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on Migration, he testified before Congress about the effects of mandatory deportation and mandatory detention provisions of a 1996 immigration law. While he was director of the USCC Migration and Refugee Services Office, he created CLINIC (Catholic Legal Immigration Network), as a legal services corporation through which dioceses offer new immigrants help in resettling.

DiMarzio went on to say that improving the world’s economic status will help reduce the need for people to leave their homelands and travel someplace else.

“People immigrate out of necessity and not for pleasure,” DiMarzio said.

The Roman Catholic Clergy of Astoria and Long Island City is a new organization comprised of Greek Orthodox, Protestant and Roman Catholic clergy in the Astoria and Long Island City area.

In January 2003, Catholic bishops from the United States and Mexico called for a “globalization of solidarity” and an overhaul of the U.S. immigration system. In a pastoral letter, the American and Mexican bishops outlined several criteria for the reform of the U.S. immigration system that included a broad-based legalization and permanent residency of all the undocumented nationalities. The bishops also called for abandonment of the border enforcement strategy and a restoration of due process protections for immigrants.

In June 2004, a diverse group of Catholic organizations with national networks decided to join the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and their campaign, Justice for Immigrants, designed to unite and mobilize a growing network of Catholic institutions, individuals, and other persons of good faith in support of a broad legalization program and comprehensive immigration reform. The campaign’s primary objectives are to educate the public and create political will for positive immigration reform.

The Catholic Campaign for Immigration Reform (CCIR) has also been working closely with the Catholic Campaign Against Global Poverty (CCAGP). The CCAGP aims to reduce poverty through trade, aid and debt reforms. Additionally, both organizations recognize the circumstances that compel people to leave their homes out of desperation and lack of opportunities in order to provide for themselves and their families.

The immigration reform and global poverty campaigns are related in that one addresses the rights and needs of migrants in the United States while the other addresses the rights and needs of persons living in their native countries. Both campaigns aim to enlist the support of Catholic individuals and institutions in dioceses throughout the country.

There are currently more than 12 million undocumented people living in the United States.

“We are all immigrants or the children or descendants of immigrants,” DiMarzio said. “If we shut the doors, we will become no better than an Iron Curtain country.”

For more information about immigration reform, visit www.justiceforimmigrants.org or visit www.immaculateconceptionastoria.net.

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