The Sisters of Perpetual Resistance

Want to fight for families on the border? Take a cue from these nuns.

| Fall 2018

  • With a deadline for the expiration of DACA looming, the sisters were figuring out how to make a bigger statement to show support for the young DREAMers when they received a phone call from Faith in Public Life, an activist network of progressive evangelicals.
    Photo by Flicker/Joe Brusky
  • Immigration officials have since told the sisters that their presence on the deportation buses has had a calming effect on the detainees as they embark on their deportation journey.
    Photo by Flicker/Ep_Jhu

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.”

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