The Sisters of Perpetual Resistance: The Fight to Protect Undocumented Immigrants Is Tougher Than Ever, but Two Dedicated Nuns Show No Signs of Stopping

By Bellware, Kim | U.S. Catholic, July 2018 | Go to article overview

The Sisters of Perpetual Resistance: The Fight to Protect Undocumented Immigrants Is Tougher Than Ever, but Two Dedicated Nuns Show No Signs of Stopping


Bellware, Kim, U.S. Catholic


Just after sunrise on a below-freezing January morning, a huddle of people gathered outside a nondescript Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) building in the Chicago suburb of Broadview for a vigil the Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants (ICDI) has been holding every week for more than 11 years.

About a dozen people huddled in close to block out the freezing wind and to pray, sing, and encourage one another in the slow-moving battle for immigration reform. Attendees prayed for comfort for the immigrants facing deportation and for peace from the ICE officers overseeing them. They also prayed for actions from the politicians who didn't seem to be doing much to solve the problem.

Then, someone cursed.

The mid-vigil expletive was a direct quote from President Donald Trump, allegedly uttered hours earlier during a discussion with lawmakers about protecting immigrants from Africa and countries like Haiti and El Salvador.

The mix of Catholic parishioners, clergy, and activists shook their heads in a mix of sadness and disgust. Then Sister JoAnn Persch, a Chicago nun with the Sisters of Mercy, gripped the portable microphone and gave a firm rebuke of the president's characterization.

"These are not 'shithole countries,'" she said, her voice breaking. "These people are our brothers and our sisters--human beings with dignity."

Together with her fellow Sister Pat Murphy, these Sisters of Mercy have spent years fighting for the dignity, rights, and liberation of detained immigrants.

The two officially founded ICDI in 2007 after meeting Roy Berg, a local immigration attorney, as he was holding a vigil outside the Broadview facility. The vigil alternates between interfaith prayers and a recitation of the Catholic rosary, though people of any faith are invited to join on any given Friday.

Persch and Murphy, who this year will turn 83 and 89, respectively, have braved a decade of early morning wake-ups to hold vigil in the freezing cold, driving rain, and oppressive summer heat. Berg says the coldest day they've ever faced was nearly 20 below, at which point everyone prayed in their car.

The nuns also travel a circuit of jails and ICE facilities around Illinois and Wisconsin, visiting detained immigrants and praying with them in their final hours as they face deportation--and often separation from their families.

Over the years they've successfully pushed for an Illinois law that grants detainees access to spiritual counsel, cultivated the trust of ICE officials, and won the hearts of United States senators. They've even managed to spare a few undocumented immigrants from deportation through courtroom advocacy.

But for all their tireless efforts, they can't help but look at the current immigration landscape and see the challenges still growing: Anti-immigrant rhetoric has grown uglier in the past few years and immigration arrests surged 42 percent in the first year of the Trump administration, which made immigration crackdowns a key policy priority (deportations dipped slightly last year due to fewer illegal border crossings from Mexico). Executive orders issued by the Trump administration, meanwhile, have pushed for expedited removal, swiftly deporting undocumented immigrants after arrest before they can plead their case before an immigration judge.

A few weeks after the January vigil, while sitting in the office she shares with Murphy on Chicago's far South Side, Persch admits, "It's kind of worn us out. They've taken away so many of the safeguards."

The president's September 2017 announcement that he would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program added another layer of urgency to the sisters' work. Immigrant children are now vulnerable to detention and deportation, too.

The waves of bad news for undocumented immigrants seemed to roll in weekly. By early January, the sisters were feeling frustrated, like they weren't having enough of an impact. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Sisters of Perpetual Resistance: The Fight to Protect Undocumented Immigrants Is Tougher Than Ever, but Two Dedicated Nuns Show No Signs of Stopping
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.