An Undocumented Life: Two Sisters of Mercy nuns bring prayer and respect to deportees

Every Friday morning around 4 a.m. Sister JoAnn Persch and her best friend of 53 years, Sister Pat Murphy, go to the Broadview immigration processing center to help and comfort dozens of undocumented immigrants about to be deported later that morning.

The nuns not only provide pastoral care, but they talk with immigrants and help them communicate with their families, which in many cases haven't been in touch with each other since the start of deportation proceedings.

They bring clothes and even bring family members. It's a sad experience, says Persch.

"We try to make a difference by being there and showing them (detainees waiting to be deported) that we care and that they are not just a number," Perch said.

Sister JoAnn and Pat, as most of the immigration lawyers, activists and immigration officials call them, are well beyond retirement age. But they show no signs of slowing down.

On Tuesdays, Persch, 78, and Murphy, 83, drive for more than two hours to the McHenry County Jail, which houses hundreds of immigrants facing the uncertainties of upcoming court dates and deportation.

At the detention center there, and in Broadview, they explain the deportation process and offer the addresses of several safe houses at the Mexican border where the deported can stay without fear of being kidnapped or robbed.

The nuns also help arrange visits for families of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees to the detention center.

And after sending off the immigrants on buses to O'Hare International Airport Fridays, the nuns host a prayer group outside the Broadview facility.

But their work doesn't end there. They accompany family members to immigration court and also provide aid to the families--often times the person facing deportation is the sole breadwinner.

They are also outspoken about their opposition to the record-breaking number of deportations under the Barrack Obama administration.

The nuns, who are part of Sisters of Mercy, have a long history of helping immigrants.

They became friends in 1959 when they met teaching at a Catholic school in Fox Point, Wis., but their commitment to protecting a vulnerable population and social justice has strengthen their bond.

In 1990, they founded Su Casa Catholic Worker, a shelter for immigrants fleeing civil wars in Central America. They prayed and cared for refugees and later became politically active and even got arrested protesting U.S. policy in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

By 1996, when the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act passed, Persch and Murphy shifted their focus.

The harsher immigration law meant more people were placed in detention centers and that worried them. They wanted to bring pastoral services to the detainees.

But making that happen was tougher than expected.

It took years of compromising with immigration enforcement officials, and lobbying in Springfield, to get legislation allowing all immigrant detainees held in Illinois jails the same access to clergy as other inmates. The law went into effect in 2009, but immigration officials kept delaying clergy access to the detainees, Persch said.

"They eventually had to let us in," she said. "We never gave up. We just couldn't."


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    We have one way in returning the power to the American people, is to retire the majority of Democrats, Liberals and Republican politicians, and give that influence to the Constitutional TEA PARTY leadership. Under Obama we have seen the U.S. deficit rising to an almost fanatical 16 trillion dollars. In Sen. Harry Reid’s party no move towards a balanced budget. Then both parties have deliberately ignored the astronomical $113 billion dollars a year, pander to the 20 plus million illegal migrants and immigrants already settled here. Our only real chance to stop the illegal invaders is adopting more Tea Party Senators and Representatives. Millions of demoralized Americans of different racial make-ups, religions and political parties have joined the Tea Party that represents all citizens, permanent residents whether of Hispanic, Latino, European, and Asian, Pacific Rim or any part of the world’s population who came here legally.

    Beginning with Arizona v. the justice Department who revolted against the high court’s unfunded mandates, that STATES must give health care, an education and welfare programs to anybody who can slither past our fences or just lie to an agent, when they alighting from a jet plane from another country. Other than Sanctuary states, the rest are waiting for the outcome in June by SCOTUS. Patiently waiting is Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and the majority of other states to at least have some confirmation, whether they can advance a policing policy to check a person’s eligibility to be in the United States?

    Senator Marco Rubio has his own plan for the Dream Act, other than the very incendiary law that Democrats have in mind. For any realistic chance of the Dream Act gaining passage in Congress, certain provisions must be in effect. The central government has to enact a nationwide mandatory E-Verify program, that Chain Migration must be rescinded from immigration law, that only children below the age of ten would be considered and that all recipients to obtain a path to citizenship, must depart the country and apply for a entry at an Embassy, as every other patient immigrant must do. A larger majority of the Tea Party members would also insist that the Birthright Citizenship law be amended, so no pregnant illegal alien mother or parents could take advantage any more with their child/children getting instant citizenship. That no baby/infant should become a taxpayer’s burden, unless one parent is a U.S. citizen. Over the years this law has become mutated, and should not be a foothold, for every illegal migrant or immigrant who smuggles themselves into America to gain admittance to welfare and public assistance. Our own pregnant females suffer a large disadvantage by the hospital clogged by illegal alien Mothers, whereas citizens and residents must pay maternity fees, while others get a free uncompensated ride. These programs should only be available to citizens, naturalized citizens and green card holders.


    That the farming and agricultural commerce have an obligation to pay the benefits for their labor and not the state’s taxpayers. There will no importation of migrant poverty anymore, by cutting off access to welfare, food stamps, and section 8 housing programs. Taxpayer doesn’t need or should we accept any new low skilled workers, instead we must necessitate in supplying our own citizens with more occupational programs. Further we must safeguard our voting system which has been compromised by the far left, its Liberal associates, Democrats and groups like ACORN that became a vital factor of a growing number of state requiring official ID to vote. Illegal aliens are voting and will again in local, state and federal elections and this dishonesty must be ended. Another set of regulations to amend, would be a careful examination of the current visa system allowing around a million legal immigrants annually into the U.S. No further violation can be tolerated from businesses and we should only permit the highest intelligence in engineering, the sciences, mathematicians and computer technology professionals to immigrate.

    Illegal immigration must become a thing of the past by securing our border fences. Business that intentionally ignores E-Verify should face harsh sanctions, including prison. Elected officials, who allow such provisions as Sanctuary City ordinances, should be punished and government legislators should sever funds to these perpetrators. All federal and state legislators, governors, majors, police chiefs should be put on notice, that voters will unseat them, specially the Tea Party members. Any illegal alien invaders of this sovereign country, should be prosecuted as a Felony, not a civil infraction, with ID theft or Voter Fraud should be mandatory prison sentence, with no exceptions.

    America is bleeding badly from years of neglect by both political parties and pampering of foreign nationals cannot be accepted any more as the norm. Internal enforcement is more urgent than ever before, because of supporting illegal aliens is skyrocketing and taxpayers are on the hook. Illegal aliens have also found a way, to obtain $4.6 billion dollars annually by defrauding the IRS and the taxpayers, using non-existent children tax credits. Elections are no longer safe as Democrats and their less honest followers are participating in voter fraud. We either need a national ID card or that all voters must possess a government picture ID for proof of who they are?

    If you cherish your freedoms from the corruption in Washington that benefits all of us, we need a balanced tax system with no subsidies, a right to drill on the Peoples National land and sea for plentiful reservoirs of oil, natural gas to alleviate our out-of-control deficit. No more government bail outs for the friends of the White house. Throw out all the profiteering lawmakers and by cleaning house, put recognizable TEA PARTY leaders in their place. Voters need to demand from Congress, specifically from GOP House speaker, John Boehner of Ohio and Dave Camp of Michigan, as the Chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee to stop blocking the 50-state E-Verify bill. Call the central switchboard at 202-224-3121 Washington, DC. For further information on this crisis subject, check with NumbersUSA website, where even Congress consults on immigration matters.

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