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Mac King and Carissa Kranz/Medill

Jews, Muslims, Christians and others voiced their concern over the possibility of racial profiling.

Religious leaders on immigration: ‘Law and dignity should go together’

by Giulia Lasagni
May 12, 2010


Giulia Lasagni/MEDILL

Religious leaders from the Chicago area hold paper frames as symbols of racial stereotypes during a press conference Wednesday.

Religious leaders from the Chicago area firmly condemned a new Arizona immigration law and demanded comprehensive immigration reform during a press conference at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago on Wednesday.  

Representatives from the Catholic, Jewish and Muslim communities expressed their concern over what they called the potentially racist effects of the Arizona law, which allows police to detain people they suspect are illegal immigrants. They said they support legislation respectful of family unity and basic human rights.  

“The time for national comprehensive immigration reform is long overdue,” said the Rev. Paul H. Rutgers on behalf of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago, an organization composed of leaders of several Chicago religious groups. 

The group advocates for immigration reform measures that would include paying minimum wage to all workers and citizenship rights for those who have an established work record.   

The religious leaders, who were holding paper cut-out picture frames as symbols of racial stereotypes, drew a connection between the Arizona law and discrimination long experienced by people living in the United States, including African-Americans.  

“Racial profiling is a stain on the highest ideas of what this country said it would stand for: freedom, justice and equality,” said Rabbi Joshua Salter of the Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation in Chicago   

Some of the participants shared their own experiences with racial profiling.    

Janaan Hashim, a member of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, said her daughter, who wears a head covering, experiences racial discrimination on such an ordinary basis that she is almost surprised when she does not encounter it. After attending a music festival in Chicago, Hashim's daughter said: “ ‘Only two people told me: Go back to the country you came from’.”  

“No mother living in the United States in the 21st century should have to have these worries, ” Hashim said. 

The Rev. Gustavo Garcia-Siller, an auxiliary bishop of Chicago, said he was also a victim of racial profiling. After returning to the United States from Mexico, his country of origin, he said  he was questioned for a long time at Midway airport about his work, despite being a U.S. citizen.  

“I am thankful for being an American and I am concerned for the people that don’t have the support system that I have,” Garcia-Siller said, noting that many immigrants do not have social or economic resources.   

The solution to the problems posed by immigration, he said, is comprehensive and compassionate reform.   

“There is a need for family unity, for basic rights in a civilized society,” Garcia-Siller said. “Law and human dignity should go together.”