Religious leaders show support for undocumented immigrants


CAMDEN — With dozens of lay supporters and Catholic and other faith leaders behind him here outside City Hall, Father Gerard Marable pledged solidarity for undocumented immigrants throughout South Jersey.

“The Catholic Church will continue the support and advocacy of immigrants and refugees,” the pastor of the city’s Saint Josephine Bakhita Parish said to all gathered at Roosevelt Park for a rally in the wake of President Donald Trump’s new executive order March 6 banning arrivals from six majority-Muslim nations.

“Our Catholic tradition begins with Jesus, who welcomed the foreigner,” he added, reading from Matthew 25, where Christ tells his followers that “what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.”

Another Camden pastor, Father Hugh Macsherry, OFM, witnesses the “anxiety and uncertainty” daily among the Hispanic faithful in his congregation at Camden’s Saint Anthony of Padua Parish.

He said President Trump’s rhetoric on building a wall between Mexico and the United States, and questions about the future of the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program or Dream Act — which saw 700,000 youth who were brought illegally into the United States as children being granted work permits and protected from deportation — has led to a feeling of concern.

“There is a lot of pain from our people,” he said. “Tears are flowing from their eyes, and their hearts.”

Michael Jordan Laskey, vice chancellor for the City of Camden and diocesan director of Life and Justice, hopes refugees and immigrants know exactly where the Catholic Church stands, with the call of Jesus to welcome the stranger.

“The faith community is with you, and I urge others to stand up with us,” he asserted.

The most personal testimony came from the mouth of Leticia Palillero, a DACA recipient who was born in Mexico and now lives in South Jersey.

“I’ve received a permit that allows me to work, to have insurance, and has allowed me to drive,” she said, adding that uncertainty of the Trump Administration’s next steps keeps her on edge.

“I’m most fearful for my parents who don’t have the same opportunity, who don’t have papers,” she added.

She hopes the country’s leaders, like this city’s faith leaders, recognize the contributions of the immigrants and refugees.

“This country will grow (stronger) with immigrants,” she said.