Faith leaders gather at Pro-Cathedral to pray for immigrants

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CAMDEN — The U.S. immigration system is broken and it must be overhauled to welcome new immigrants, according to local faith leaders who held a prayer service on March 20.

“A nation needs to be renewed by new people and with a new perspective,” said Father Ken Hallahan, who participated in the prayer service held in solidarity with a weekend march on Washington, D.C. calling for the overhaul of immigration laws.

“Immigrants help to renew a nation, and they have always done this,” Father Hallahan continued. “If a nation wants to flourish and improve, it must open itself to immigrants.”

The prayer service was held at St. Joseph’s Pro-Cathedral and included 50 leaders from Camden Churches Organized for People (CCOP) and such member congregations as St. Joan of Arc, St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral, and St. Bartholomew, among others. Other participants included the Romero Center and the Office of Social Justice Ministries with the Camden Diocese

The event brought together people from Argentina, Haiti, Mexico, Ivory Coast, Philippines, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Sierre Leone, Ireland, Germany and other countries.

“Wealthy nations are subsidized by poor nations,” Father Hallahan said. “The middle and upper classes are subsidized by poor nations. We buy products from them and food at much lower prices because the people who make these items are not paid properly. Some earn $3 a day or less.”

Father Hallahan, who resides at St. Agnes Church in Blackwood, works in a Spanish ministry in churches up and down the White Horse Pike.

He maintained there are 2 billion people in the world, “a third of the population,” who are getting paid very little and working very hard.

“Some of these people are coming here, and out of gratitude for what they’ve done for us, we should welcome them with gratitude. That’s the Christian way.”

Until the economy nosedived, Father Hallahan said, many of the illegals, most of whom are Mexican, sent money home to help their families who used the money to improve their homes, usually by installing wooden floors.

“The homes had dirt floors,” said Father Hallahan.

And this money sent home amounted to some $25 billion a year.

The American immigration policy favors those people who are already here, Father Hallahan said, mostly those from northern Europe.

“People have a right to immigrate here and a right to practice their own culture,” he pointed out.

Although the illegal immigrants are primarily from Latin America there are also others living here who are undocumented, which includes Asians and Filipinos, said Father Hallahan.

There are also an estimated 50,000 illegal Irish immigrants in this country, 30,000 of which live in New York. But since they don’t fit the “profile” of an illegal, nobody bothers them and nobody seems to ask them for any ID.

Yet when the 1986 amnesty went through, the Irish illegals were the largest single group to respond, Father Hallahan said.