March 2, 2018, Chicago – Adrian Dominican Sisters JoAnn Fleischaker, OP, and Dorothy (Dot) Dempsey, OP, were part of a group of Catholic clergy and religious from Chicago who took part in a recent press conference announcing a Lenten fast in solidarity with Dreamers.
Dreamers are U.S. residents who had immigrated to the United States as children with their undocumented parents. Advocates for these Dreamers are working to pass legislation that would protect the Dreamers, who had applied for temporary safety from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Many of the estimated 800,000 Dreamers had never known any nation other than the United States.
Both Sisters JoAnn and Dot are members of the Adrian Dominican Congregation’s Dominican Midwest Mission Chapter, based in Chicago. For years, Sisters and Associates in the Dominican Midwest have focused on their Chapter’s Immigration Initiative, which calls on them to walk with immigrants and to work toward a just and compassionate immigration reform.
Sister JoAnn is one of several Adrian Dominicans who volunteer to spend two hours for two weekends a month at the Marie Joseph House of Hospitality, a center in Chicago for women and children immigrants. Before the monthly meetings of Sisters and Brothers of Immigrants, Sister JoAnn and others take part in an hour of public witness in support of immigrants.
As an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher, Sister JoAnn has heard first-hand of the fears of deportation faced by many adult learners. “When you meet people who are in that situation and you hear them speak about their experience, it helps you understand tie issue so much better,” Sister JoAnn said.
Sister Dot spoke of her own experiences as a literacy tutor with immigrants and as a court watcher in immigration court, ensuring the immigrants who are represented in court that what happens to them is noticed by the community. “I listen to the struggles that they have while they’re incarcerated,” she said. Hearing their experiences gives her special motivation for being involved with the immigrant population.
Sister Dot is also among a group of Sisters who gather for interfaith prayer every Friday morning at Broadview, the detention center for immigrants. She explained that, in the past, immigrants detained at Broadview were often deported from there on Friday mornings, and the group was there to give them moral support.
“It’s a witness,” Sister Dot said of the Broadview gathering, noting that students on spring break often join them in their prayer. In addition, she said, law students from DePaul University often come to learn more about the experience of the immigrants.
Sisters in the Dominican Midwest Chapter and other concerned citizens in the Chicago area have an opportunity almost every other day to participate in an action on behalf of immigrants, Sister Dot said. “We all do what we can: calling, marching, being a presence. It helps to know what they must go through, not knowing what tomorrow may bring. It’s all for the Dreamers and our immigrants.”
July 28, 2017, Chicago – Adrian Dominican Sisters Jean Keeley, OP, and Joan Mary, OP, were part of a delegation of 40 people who attended a July 10 press conference at Chicago’s Thompson Center to deliver a special letter to Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner. The letter, signed by 174 faith leaders, implores the governor to sign the Illinois Trust Act, which would ensure that citizens asking for help from law enforcement officials will not have to fear being held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to check on their citizenship status.
The legislation was passed by the state legislature May 5 and now sits in the governor’s office. He has until Aug. 28 to approve, veto or take no action.
“As people of faith, we are called to stand in solidarity with immigrants in our midst who are in danger of having their families separated and taken away from the homes they have created in our state,” the letter reads in part. “Illinois has always chosen to act with love towards immigrants, becoming a source of stability for immigrant families. The Trust Act will reassure all immigrants that they are welcome and that the state will do everything it can to protect them and their families.”
Among the cosigners of the letter are Sister Jean; Adrian Dominican Sister JoAnn Fleischaker, OP; and a number of Dominican Sisters from other Congregations and Dominican Friars from the Central Province.
Sisters Jean and Joan were part of a five-member delegation from Sisters and Brothers of Immigrants (SBI), an organization founded in 2007 by Catholic Sisters of the Chicago area to work on initiatives of the Catholic Campaign for Immigration Reform. Membership has expanded to include associate members of religious congregations, religious brothers, and all who are committed to justice for immigrants.
The Adrian Dominican Sisters’ involvement is in keeping with the Chapter Initiative on Immigration adopted by the Congregation’s Dominican Midwest Mission Chapter, based in Chicago. Through this initiative, Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates in this Chapter commit to “answer the call to walk with immigrants in their struggle.” Individual Sisters and Associates choose to keep this commitment in various ways: by praying weekly with other people of faith at a detention center from which immigrants are deported; serving as witnesses for justice in immigration court; assisting on weekends at houses of hospitality for immigrants; working with immigrants at the Aquinas Literacy Center; and praying and advocating for immigrants.
Read more about the press conference and the Illinois Trust Act here.