By Antonio Olivo
Chicago Tribune reporter
11:19 PM CDT, September 9, 2008
Religious leaders in Chicago and other cities Tuesday announced plans for a series of Immigration vigils over the next month in hopes of bringing attention to an issue all but ignored during the race for president.
The 18-city "Tour of the Faithful" is set to kick off with a prayer vigil in Columbus, Ohio, on Wednesday, with a larger vigil and march scheduled outside the federal Immigration detention center in Broadview, Ill., later this month. Other events are planned in Chicago, Boston; Raleigh, N.C.; and Denver.
Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders are coordinating the vigils as part of a larger effort among religious groups to press both major presidential candidates to push for Immigration reforms before and after the November election, organizers said.
The leaders acknowledged deep divisions over illegal Immigration within their separate congregations. They hope to create a groundswell for change, including a proposed path to legalization for illegal immigrants, which has been stalled in Congress for nearly two years.
"As it pertains to the 2008 elections, Immigration reform is the quintessential elephant in the room," said Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, an evangelical Christian leader in California who advised several Republicans during the primary season.
"The fact of the matter is that, more than ever, particularly in the Hispanic community, we have an incredible amount of angst, trepidation and a spirit of fear," Rodriguez said.
Central to the group's message will be the biblical tenet of welcoming the stranger, said Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Washington-based Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
"We read in the Bible more frequently than any other commandment that we should love the stranger as ourselves," Saperstein said, citing several passages from the Book of Leviticus.
Although the group hopes to persuade more people to consider the issue from that perspective, they acknowledged that others believe in stricter enforcement.