Catholic liberal activists, including priests and women religious, were arrested near the U.S. Capitol while calling on Congress to find a solution for the hundreds of thousands of so-called Dreamers who have benefited from the Obama-era Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, which has provided work permits and delay in deportation. It is scheduled to terminate on March 5. The rally was organized by PICO -- a international network of leftist organizations with ties to church groups, according to Spero News contributor Stephanie Block.

Prominent among those arrested were Sister Elise Garcia, Sister JoAnn Persch, and Father Thomas Reese. In a speech, Reese said, "They are our students, sitting in our classrooms, they are our parishioners, kneeling in our churches." And pointing to the Capitol Building, Reese said "it is time for the people who work in that building to realize that this is a moral issue. It is a justice issue, and the political gamesmanship must stop." 

Some of the women present are members of the Sisters of Mercy -- a congregation of Catholic women. Following President Trump’s decision to terminate DACA, they issued a statement on their website that condemned it as “immoral and unjust.” It said, “Although President Trump had repeatedly pledged to treat DACA recipients ‘with heart,’ his decision to wind down DACA is deeply troubling. We agree that Congress needs to pass just immigration policy reform, but this action by the Administration abdicates its responsibility and promise to DACA recipients, and undermines our nation's professed values of fairness, welcome and compassion.”

Reese, Persch, and Garcia, were there to support Dreamers in what was hailed as a "Catholic Day of Action With Dreamers," which was organized by the California-based leftist PICO National Network. Persch said that she stands with the Dreamers in what she feels is a moral issue. Accepting the possibility of arrest, she said that her prayers and work on behalf of “comprehensive immigration reform” has had no impact. She said, "As a woman of faith, I am called to be wise ... courageous, a prophetic voice." Referring to House Speaker Paul Ryan, a fellow Catholic, Persch said, "That is a challenge to every person who says they are a Catholic, a Christian, a person of faith. And this applies to Paul Ryan as well as all those in Congress."
"Paul, Paul, why do you persecute me?" protesters chanted, referring to Rep. Ryan while alluding St. Paul’s encounter with the voice God on the road to Damascus, as recounted in the New Testament.

In the rotunda of a Senate office building, protesters including Reese, Garcia, and Persch joined hands and prayed despite persistent warnings from Capitol Police that they would be arrested. There were approximately 40 arrests, of which several were of Catholic religious women. Not arrested was Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky, who cried out, "We stand with the Dreamers, we are one with the Dreamers. And now I ask God's blessing upon those who are acting in civil disobedience, part of a long-standing tradition of not supporting unjust laws."

The persons arrested were charged with disorderly conduct, crowding, incommoding, and obstruction. They each paid $50 in fines and later released. 

Church groups and leftist band-aids

Commenting on the incident was Stephanie Block, an author and contributor to Spero News. A Catholic, Block resides in a Texas border town and has observed first-hand the migrant crisis. She has also written several books on the infiltration of communities of faith by Alinskyian leftist organizers who have turned compassion into political action. In particular, she has focused on PICO, the organization that put on the Washington D.C. protest on Monday. 

Block has noted in the past that Jim Wallis -- the founder of the liberal Christian group, Sojourners -- has worked in concert with Barack Obama’s Organizing for Action in three principal areas: gun control, comprehensive immigration reform, and advancing Democrats’ budget proposals. Wallis denounced the National Rifle Association as a principal cause for violence in America, citing high gun-murder rates in Chicago without mentioning the city’s strict gun control. “Along with the PICO National Network, it used the occasion of the Newtown shootings to lobby 100 senators with a letter, primarily signed by clergy, urging support for gun-control legislation.” 

On the issue of comprehensive immigration reform, Block wrote in 2013, that the Interfaith Immigration Coalition includes Sojourners, many of the prominent dissident Catholic groups such as NETWORK, Pax Christi, Leadership Conference of Women Religious, and PICO. 

In an email response to Spero News, Block wrote, “‘Compassion for immigrants’ is a noble sentiment (defining “immigrant” as anyone who has made a decision to move to ‘this place’ from ‘that place’). ‘Keeping families together’ is also a critical concept, as is “respect for the dignity of all persons” and “solidarity of peoples” and ‘building a culture of life.’ 

“But behind the memes is something deep and complex that has been going unaddressed.  No…not unaddressed. Suppressed.”

Violent and imperialist grammarians

Block noted that some academics are of the opinion that correcting students who use non-standard English or Spanish is a form of “violence” and “imperialism.” These academics believe that because teachers should show love of knowledge and love for their students, and not demonstrate any racial or ethnic superiority, they should refrain from correcting their students.

“Feeling compassion,”wrote Block, “goes without saying.” Catholics and other Christians know to feed a hungry person who has crossed into the United States, she affirmed, and comes to their church to ask for a meal. She also noted that deporting a young person who was born in Mexico but raised in the U.S. since infancy, who has no knowledge of how to live in Mexico, is facing an “unjust situation.”

“But so is the social blindness – right and left – that has devolved this issue into something that can’t be discussed anymore because every position is ‘un-American’ or ‘hateful’ or whatever we say to shut each other up…” writes Block. “Meanwhile, we exploit the ‘immigrants’ – the ones without papers – because onions are cheaper picked by workers whose salaries are ‘under the table.’ We know they are exploited because the left – the farm worker unions and the religion/union coalitions – have documented all manner of abuses, including wage theft, human trafficking, and forced labor.  

“If that doesn’t rend your heart, what will?  

“Yet the left, for all its compassion (and the band aids they hand to individuals are important), and the right, for all its protectionism (and that cry for law and order is precisely why most ‘immigrants’ are here – that, and capitalism’s myriad opportunities) don’t really want a solution.  A solution would drive up the price of onions. And a solution would take the thunder out of political postures – right and left. A porous border has served a lot of people extremely well, for a long time. The ones it doesn’t serve well sometimes get band aids. Or memorial services. Or free tickets somewhere else.”

Block is the author of Organizing the Culture of Death, and the four-volume Change Agents.



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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