Local pastors participated in a Jan. 18 meeting in Boyle Heights to brainstorm how to proceed to support the immigrant community in reaching a comprehensive immigration reform.The meeting at Dolores Mission Church is a follow-up of a series of meetings of a group of pastors from inner-city parishes who coordinated action plans in 2012. That led to a Mass in support of the immigrant community at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels that drew about 4,000 parishioners throughout Southern California.The Mass was followed by a partnership between parishes and Catholic Charities to provide orientation and information to students (popularly known as “Dreamers”) in their application process under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.The Jan. 18 meeting, hosted by the archdiocesan Office of Life, Justice and Peace, included representatives of the Diocese of Orange and the Archdiocese of Chicago, and was led by Auxiliary Bishop Alexander Salazar. He urged the 100 participants to brainstorm about how they would like Archbishop José Gomez to address the broader Catholic community regarding immigration “so he can be our leader in the path toward justice in immigration.”To close the gathering, three Mexican Consulate officials offered information about the different programs available for immigrants.As an example of what can happen when people are united in a cause, Bishop Salazar pointed to the majority of Angelenos voting to abolish the death penalty in the November elections, although the measure did not pass statewide. “We can do the same with this issue, providing ideas and staying united,” said the bishop.Parishioners in attendance urged that local Church leaders speak frequently and openly about the immigration issue and make clear how current immigration laws are affecting families and communities. They also suggested that leaders encourage parishioners to call their representatives in Congress.Claretian Father Bruce Wellems, pastor of San Gabriel Mission, concurred that it is the voice of the bishops that could help animate, organize and educate the laity. “Together they could be the voice in Sacramento,” he said.Father Arturo Corral, pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle in Los Angeles, said the meeting was a good start to “invite other parishes to continue working together on these efforts.”In support of the undocumented, he said, citizenship and literacy classes are offered at the church.St. Michael parishioners Maria Ruvalcaba and Maria Becerra said people at the church have been very active around immigration under the lead of Msgr. David O’Connell, pastor, who coordinates the monthly immigration meetings.‘A path to citizenship’Hours earlier, union, student and religious leaders representing a coalition of more than 35 grassroots organizations had gathered at City Hall Park to urge Congress and President Barack Obama to pass comprehensive immigration reform.“It’s time to provide a path to citizenship,” Maria Elena Durazo, leader of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and chair of the National AFL-CIO immigration committee, said at a press conference.“It is time for families to be united,” she continued. “It is time to change immigration law in this country.” Saying “enough is enough,” she urged elected officials and Congress to “take action now,” adding that women and men who are part of the working class that contributes to the country’s economy “demand our respect.”During the press conference, workers Christian Torres, Isabel Cuevas and “dreamer” Anthony Ng shared their testimonies representing those who live in the shadows.“We just want a dignifying job, we are hard workers,” said Torres, keeping back his tears after sharing he loved his job working in the kitchen at Pomona College. “We are not criminals, we are dreamers who want to improve the lives of our families,” declared Ngo.“Now I don’t stay shut, I fight for my rights,” said Cuevas, who has legal status, but her husband is facing deportation.To close the conference in prayer, religious leaders, including Claretian Fathers Richard Estrada (Our Lady Queen of Angels) and Bruce Wellems (San Gabriel Mission), formed a “circle of protection” around five-year-old Marisol, Cuevas’ daughter, who was held on the arms by evangelical pastor Walter Contreras, symbolizing how the community can help keep undocumented families together.Father Wellems told The Tidings that the Catholic laity has a very important role to play together with bishops and priests in educating and advocating for the undocumented.Father Estrada said “more presence of the Catholic clergy and leadership is needed” in those type of events to “help empower the people.”Rep. Judy Chu, who serves on the House Judiciary Committee, said, “We cannot wait another year to fix the broken system; we will not give up until all who want to call this country home have a fair reasonable path to citizenship.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0125/immigration/{/gallery}