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Waukegan Parish Priest Offers Support to Local Law Enforcement Working with Homeland Security

LatinaLista — Barely 24 hours after the Senate shelved trying to reform the immigration system, small-town America is back implementing their own reforms.
The latest case is in Waukegan, Illinois where Mayor Richard Hyde and city aldermen have decided to submit an application to Homeland Security to empower their local police force to identify and retain undocumented immigrants.

Waukegan police said 5,000 or so people were outside Holy Family Catholic Church while a meeting was going on inside in which Waukegan Mayor Richard Hyde addressed questions on how the city will handle illegal immigrants. (Photos by Vincent Pierri/Daily Herald)
The story itself is nothing new except that in this case the local priest is offering his support of the measure.

His name is Father Gary, and by all press accounts, he is the much loved parish priest who ministers to the spiritual needs of his predominantly Latino immigrant congregation at three Catholic churches in the Waukegan area.

Fr. Gary
(Source: Daily Herald)

He is also the latest supporter of the 287 (g) program that partners local police with Homeland Security to root out and deport undocumented immigrants.
This week, Father Gary invited Waukegan’s Mayor Richard Hyde to come to Holy Family Church for a special meeting. Father Gary, before 1500 people packed inside the church and another 5,000 outside, stated his public support of the 287 (g) in exchange for the understanding that the police only go after criminals who are convicted of serious crimes of rape, child abuse and murder.
Father Gary wanted the Mayor to promise in exchange for his support to have the police stop racial profiling, seizures of cars with exorbitant fines, support comprehensive immigration reform and drivers’ certifications.

Mayor Richard Hyde
(Source: Daily Herald)

A source told Latina Lista that Father Gary also wanted the Mayor to promise that they report to Holy Family Church on a quarterly basis the status of the measure’s impact on the local community.
It may be blind faith that Father Gary is investing in the Mayor that he thinks his support of the 287 (g) will make a difference in how the local police target undocumented immigrants but there’s little hope for that to happen.
The police won’t know any undocumented immigrant is guilty of the crimes that Father Gary is stipulating unless they are in custody. To think that the police would release anyone in their custody whom they know is undocumented is wishful thinking on Father Gary’s part.
Lilia Paredes, vice president of the Chicago chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), told Latina Lista that not all in the local Latino community agree with Father Gary or have the same blind faith that he does.
For that reason, a meeting was held tonight to create a two-prong strategy in how to deal with this situation.
“One strategy is economic,” said Paredes. “We will analyze which stores to boycott. The other strategy is political. We will start registering voters very heavily to help make these changes that must happen, happen.”

“How can anyone trust a police department that takes vehicles from thousands of Latinos and charges them exorbitant fees totaling over a thousand dollars per person? How can anyone trust a police department that just lost a case for innocently murdering a young Latino, Wilson Alexander Lopez? And, how can we trust the Waukegan Police Department when we know the reason our Waukegan coordinator, Jose Guzman, became one of the most vocal leaders in Waukegan on behalf of the Chicago Metro LCLAA because his nephew, Roberto Gonzalez, was mysteriously beaten to death at the hands of the Waukegan Police?” said Paredes at a Monday, June 25, 2007, meeting in the Belvedere Mall in Waukegan, Illinois to a crowd of roughly 100 small business owners.

Though the battle for immigration reform has died in the U.S. Senate, it is clear that it is not a dead issue. The battle is now being taken up in the streets and towns across the country.
Since Congress is the only entity that can provide a resolution to the problem, it is safe to say that what will ensue for the next couple of years is a country where Latino communities will feel under siege and threatened — and at least in Waukegan, their local Catholic church won’t even be able to smoothe those fears.

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