Many men and women who face the threat of being placed in an immigration detention center are overcome by fear, as they move through the legal system and find where their fate stands.
The process, alone, is traumatizing for individuals to undergo.
What’s more is that once they are detained, they are left with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.
This became the topic of conversation for the Peace and Justice Ministry of St. Julie Billiart Catholic Church, who turned to community members Oct. 2 in an effort to show support for individuals and families affected by immigration detention, deportation and post-deportation.
Interfaith Committee for Detained Immigrants, a faith-based nonprofit in Chicago, partnered with Peace and Justice to talk with area residents on the path to citizenship. Interfaith Committee’s mission centers on helping people through pastoral care, advocacy, public witness and more.
The process of gaining citizenship is often a difficult one.
“You can’t just go downtown to the Citizens Bureau, and say, ‘Oh, I just found out I’m not a citizen; make me one,’” said JoAnn Persch, a Mercy sister who is a founding member of Interfaith Committee for Detained Immigrants. “It’s a very complicated, and very, very expensive process.”
For example, an interested individual would need to first become a lawful permanent resident in the United States. After five years, that person can apply for citizenship. For some, people are hesitant to apply for DACA, fearing they will be detained for coming out as an illegal resident.
The length of time in which a detainee is held in detention varies.
Persch explained that not only are illegal residents required to pay their bond in full, but also they may lack representation in court.
Persch recognized there are even people who have permanent residency that go on to seek citizenship only to be picked up for deportation regarding past offenses that have been resolved.
“These laws have got to change,” she said. “Nothing is going to be different until Congress changes the immigration laws.”
Parishioner Andi Borucke said she is glad she decided to come out for the presentation.
“I was involved in the Peace and Justice Ministry, and I’m interested in what’s happening with DACA and immigration,” Borucke said. “I had family who came to this country. My father brought his sister [about] 70 years ago.”
Borucke questioned the process in which the country grants citizenship to interested individuals.
“Why’s it so hard today?” she asked. “If people want to become citizens, there should be a way of vetting them.”
Borucke dropped in because she wanted to know more about the Interfaith Committee, and the information delivered during the presentation was worth sitting in on, she said.
St. Julie Billiart Catholic Church is now sponsoring a project to provide post-detention support packs for individuals and families in need.
“Our Peace and Justice Ministry has been discussing opportunities to get together with our neighbors to discuss topics that not only inform us but move us to act as people of faith,” said Laurel McGrath, a parishioner of St. Julie Billiart Catholic Church and a member of the Peace and Justice ministry. “We hope to continue these presentations and discussions and encourage you to bring us your ideas.”
The church is collecting support packs through Sunday, Oct. 22. These items are to be compiled in backpacks or small duffel bags with a label stating “male” or “female,” and also the clothing size “small, medium or large.” The parish is also in need of gift cards, 30-day CTA passes and financial donations.
Checks can be made out to “Interfaith Committee for Detained Immigrants” with a memo stating PDAN and send to: Interfaith Committee for Detained Immigrants, 10024 S. Central Park Ave., Chicago, IL 60655.
How you can help
Interfaith Committee for Detained Immigrants is looking for patrons to donate supplies for post-detention support packs.
• 1 jogging suit (sweatpants and sweatshirt)
• 1 T-shirt
All size are needed for both men and women
Personal hygiene kits
• Toothbrush (new)
• Small toothpaste
• Small shampoo/conditioner
• Small shaving cream
• Small body lotion
• female sanitary napkin (for female packs only)
Items should be placed in a 1-gallon sized resealable plastic bag
• 2 granola bars
• Juice or water
Learn More For more information on the Interfaith Committee for Detained Immigrants, visit www.icdichicago.org.