By Joanna Puddister King
FOREST – Religious, labor, immigrant rights leaders and supporters joined together for a solidarity prayer vigil to support the workers and local rural immigrant communities on Saturday, Aug. 17 at St. Michael parish.
Founding member of Priests for Justice for Immigrants and advisor at Dominican University in Chicago, Father Brendan Curran presided over the event, offering words of love and encouragement, as well as translating immigrant’s stories.
On behalf of Sacred Heart Canton, Director of Hispanic Ministry, Blanca Rosa Peralta thanked those present for their support of all the affected parishes. In her native tongue, she told the crowd about a trip to the ICE facility in Louisiana to pick up a detained mother, who had been separated from her children. Quickly, the thought of celebrating her release was dashed, as the mother’s “heart was destroyed” by the thought of all the other mothers still separated from their children. There was “too much of a depth of sorrow,” translated Father Curran. But Peralta insisted that the Catholic “faith community is great” and applauded efforts of those who are working so tirelessly to serve those in need.
Several of those present at the prayer vigil got up and courageously shared their stories of being detained in the ICE raids that struck the community. One young mother, with an ankle bracelet monitoring her location, spoke of both her and her husband being detained and expressed that she “didn’t think going to work was criminal.”
One gentleman shared that while he was not affected by the raids, he felt that the immigrant community was torn apart by racism. Out of work since last month after being beat severely and injured to the point he could no longer work; his family has been struggling.
Another shared that the raids affected not just those detained, but even those who were in the country legally, as many were laid off by the companies, so that they would not have to deal with the challenges of employing immigrants.
Rodger Doolittle and Milton Thompson with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1529 offered their support to those affected by the ICE raids. Doolittle said that he has “never seen a raid this bad. It’s an injury to everyone.”
“The Local 1529 stands behind every worker in this community,” stated Doolittle, as he then pledged $45,000 worth of donated food and supplies, such as diapers, bottles and school supplies to aid in all affected communities.
Daisey Martínez, parishioner at St. Martin Hazlehurst, shared that the raids brought back so many feelings for her, as her mother had been detained many years ago. Martínez offered her support to those affected and urged others that if you “know people who need help. Do it and give freely.”
“God lets light shine and shows us something positive,” said Martínez. “Help is coming from all over the country.”