“Tengo miedo,” (“I am scared.” “I am concerned and afraid about the future,”) was the collective murmur of the more than 100 people gathered Wednesday night at a “Know Your Rights” information session held at Cristo Rey St. Martin in Waukegan.
But Lake County Sheriff Mark C. Curran Jr. attempted to quell the fears. He delivered a forceful message that he and his department are standing in solidarity with the mothers, fathers, young children, (many donning their flannel pajamas for the evening session) students and members of the Waukegan Latino community attending the forum because they are in fear of the recent executive orders related to immigration.
“From my perspective I listen to the words of Cardinal Blasé Cupich and am taking a stand against ICE raids in Lake and Cook counties,” said Curran, “We will not have our officers become immigration enforcement agents. I stand here with my spiritual armor to say I am confident that he and all of us are standing up to protect the rights of immigrants and that you can go home and sleep with peace tonight. My advice is to stay within the law and keep praying.”
The Wednesday session, conducted in Spanish and hosted by the Fr. Gary Graf Center and held at CRSM, is among a growing number of informational forums popping up across the country in the wake of President Donald Trump’s immigration orders that call for the hiring of thousands of additional enforcement agents and expanding the pool of immigrants who are targeted for deportation.
According to Waukegan-based lawyer Kimberly Spagui, who was one of the leaders of the discussion, the goal of the information session was to dispel rumors and misinformation and provide families with general guidance on matters of immigration laws and how they apply in different situations.
“I’ve never had so many calls and it is more like being a counselor because there’s a lot going on with immigration right now and it’s all happening very fast and people are very afraid,” said Spagui, who was one of two immigration lawyers present to answer one-on-one questions from those gathered Wednesday.
CRSM alum Mayra Tenorio, who now works at the Graf Center, prayed with and told those gathered: “We are here to prepare you, to pray together and show everyone that immigrants play a powerful role in our community.”
In speaking of the Cardinal, Curran was referring to Cupich recently telling priests that if federal immigration authorities knock on the doors of their parishes without a warrant, priests should turn them away and call the archdiocese’s lawyers. Catholic school principals have been told to do the same. Still, new immigration priorities and expanded enforcement tactics under the new administration have struck fear in many communities, particularly among Latinos, who account for 44 percent of the diocese’s 2.2 million Catholic faithful in Cook and Lake counties.
At the end of the evening, those gathered formed a room-wide circle to pray for peace and hope for the Waukegan immigrant community. Organizers distributed bright lime green post-cards from the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights with phone numbers for a family support hotlines and an overview of their legal rights.