The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Saturday called on the White House to end immigration raids that split up families.
"I stand with other faith leaders and all of you gathered here today and with every immigrant family in this nation to call on our government to end immigration raids and the separation of families," said Cardinal Francis George at an immigrants-rights rally at a northwest Chicago church.
A diverse gathering of hundreds interrupted his remarks with cheering and clapping.
Without naming President Barack Obama, George said the current administration can fulfill its promises of change by working toward immigration reform. The rally was one in a 17-city series of meetings organized by advocates of changes to U.S. immigration policy, including U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill.
Raids are part of stepped-up federal enforcement targeting undocumented immigrants. While immigrant rights advocates claim the military-style tactic with armed officers are inhumane, officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs and Enforcement have defended them as an effective way of enforcing laws.
George said the Catholic church doesn't approve of people breaking the law, but it believes that everyone deserves respect. He said stopping raids would show the administration's sincerity to voters in the immigrant community.
"To separate families, wives from husbands, children from parents, is to diminish what God has joined," said George, who is archbishop of Chicago.
The cardinal's message resonated with 61-year-old Margaret Sents, who said her grandfather came to the U.S. from Ireland illegally. Now, her Mexican daughter-in-law faces deportation from the country, said Sents, who lives in the Chicago suburb of Glenview.
"I'm glad to see he's involved and on the job," she said of George. "He should be."
The rally is part of a 17-city series of meetings organized by advocates of changes to U.S. immigration policy.