Several hundred Catholic demonstrators march on Capitol Hill on Feb. 27, 2018, to demand congressional action on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. RNS photo by Jack Jenkins

Dozens of nuns, other Catholics arrested advocating for immigrants

WASHINGTON (RNS) — Dozens of nuns, priests and lay people were arrested in the Capitol Rotunda as part of a Catholic-led effort to persuade lawmakers to protect undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country as children. 

Those arrested were part of a group of at least 200 Catholic demonstrators who marched on Capitol Hill on Tuesday morning (Feb. 27) to draw attention to the fate of the immigrants, known as “Dreamers,” all of whom had been granted protection during the Obama administration through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. President Trump has taken steps to rescind it.

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DACA now covers 800,000 people who face deportation without it; hundreds of thousands more never signed up for the program but are believed to be in the same situation. The DACA participants hope for a legislative solution — including a path to citizenship — that polls show most Americans support.

READ: Today I plan to get arrested

A slate of faith groups have condemned Trump's decision to phase out DACA, and many religious leaders — including more than 80 rabbis and other Jewish activists in January — have been arrested in recent months during demonstrations to support the immigrants.

Tuesday's National Catholic Day of Action for Dreamers drew further attention to their plight.

Catholic demonstrators are arrested by police on Capitol Hill on Feb. 27, 2018. RNS photo by Jack Jenkins

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Before their arrest, the Catholics filed past the Supreme Court as they sang hymns and held signs with the words “Catholics Stand with Dreamers” emblazoned next to a visage of the Virgin Mary.

A Supreme Court decision on Monday appears to have forced the federal government to continue reissuing DACA protections for now, but advocates say they can’t afford to rely on the courts.

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“We have to insist that it’s not a time to wait around anymore — our Dreamers have heard plenty of false promises, but their lives are on hold,” said Bishop John Stowe of the Diocese of Lexington, Ky., addressing the crowd on the Capitol lawn, where he was followed by other Catholic clergy and immigrants alike.

The Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest and columnist with Religion News Service, was one of many speakers who singled out House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has often invoked his Catholic faith during his political career. Reese criticized what he sees as Ryan’s failure to pass legislation on the issue and invoked a passage from the Book of Acts where the Apostle Paul is asked by God why he persecutes Christians.

Roughly 200 Catholic demonstrators marched on Capitol Hill to demand congressional action on DACA, ending in the Capitol Rotunda on Feb. 27, 2018. RNS photo by Jack Jenkins

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

“Speaker Paul Ryan needs to hear those words, so let’s tell him: 'Paul, why do you persecute me?!'” Reese shouted. The crowd joined in, transforming the quip into a chant.

The group then entered the Capitol, knowing that gathering under its dome would likely result in their arrests. Many of those risking arrest said they were doing so for the first time but that their faith compelled them to act on behalf of undocumented immigrants.

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“I have never been arrested in my life, but with the blessing of my community, I am risking arrest today as an act of solidarity with our wonderful Dreamers,” said Sister Elise Garcia of the Adrian Dominican Sisters, who traveled from Michigan to participate. “To our leaders in Congress and in the White House, I say: Arrest a nun, not a Dreamer!”

After a brief prayer led by Stowe, a smaller group of about 40 — many of them nuns — began praying the rosary as police officers lined up behind them while issuing warnings with a bullhorn. Reese and several older nuns stood in a sunbeam and raised their fists in defiance as they belted the hymn "Amazing Grace," their silhouettes casting long shadows across the stone floor.

Several hundred Catholic demonstrators march on Capitol Hill to demand congressional action on DACA on Feb. 27, 2018. RNS photo by Jack Jenkins

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

When they refused to move, police quietly handcuffed them one by one.

“Paul! Paul! Why are you persecuting me?!” the demonstrators shouted again as officers led them away, their hands bound behind their backs. Supporters in the balcony applauded as they left.

Reese and all others arrested were charged with unlawfully "crowding, obstructing, or incommoding," according to a Capitol Police spokesperson. They elected to pay a fine before being processed and released.

The Rev. Thomas Reese, center, is arrested during a National Catholic Day of Action with Dreamers rally in the Capitol Rotunda on Feb. 27, 2018. RNS photo by Jack Jenkins

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

The protest, organized by several groups, including the Franciscan Action Network, PICO and Faith in Public Life, is but the latest effort in a multiday campaign by Catholics on behalf of the immigrants.

On Monday, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops sponsored a “call-in-day” that encouraged parishioners across the country to contact members of Congress and ask them to “show the leadership necessary to find a just and humane solution.”

Several prominent church leaders, including Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, promoted the effort on social media.

Ashley Feasley, policy director for the USCCB’s migration and refugee services office, said the push was an expression of Catholic social teaching.

“One of the things that is so important for us is this belief in the human dignity of all people, and the ability for all people to be with their family and the sanctity of family,” Feasley said.

“To see (Dreamers) face the loss of the ability to work legally and the threat of deportation is very disturbing, and goes against this idea of dignity and family unity.”


  1. And while this is happening, the Vatican is helping Vogue put on a fashion show.

  2. These Catholic activists should have been protesting against their bishops for denying undocumented immigrants sanctuary on any Church property.
    On March 2, 2017, Cupich specifically forbade his priests to offer sanctuary to undocumented immigrants.

  3. Betty – I understand that you have a problem with aspects of the RCC and its adherents – though, in truth, they are little different to any other religious group – just larger and even richer with one or two silly ideas that others don’t share (they all have some, the important thing is that they are different silly ideas) but you seem unable to accept that anything good can be associated with the RCC and its members.

    Nuns and at least one Jesuit painted targets on their backs and all you can do is criticise a single RCC bishop. That’s not, IMO, the way the gospel-claimed man known as Jesus of Nazareth would have behaved is it?

    When you seek to change people you have to work with them. Call them out for their wrongs sure, but whilst being big enough to give credit and encouragement where it’s due. And sometimes it is due – even to believers (of all faiths) and the groups they populate.

    ISTM that if you’re trying to get people to change you’re going about it in a counter-productive manner. If you wish to overcome your own doubts or promote yourself within a small and equally angst-ridden group then the unbalanced rants you regularly offer make more sense.

  4. Not only is the RCC “larger and even richer” but the pope and his prelates claim to be the sole arbiters of morality, the “Vicar of Christ” and his chosen bishops. So, yes, they should be held to a higher standard.

    I criticized ALL the bishops for not offering RCC property as sanctuary.

    I comment on this website only because there is no balance. Close to 100% of RCC news is favorable. I only wish to inform others that this is not so. Those who know me know that I also defend the RCC when the opposite occurs. Unlike your slander and lies (“promote yourself etc.) I only write what is factually true.

    WWJD? “Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all those engaged in selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.” Jesus said about the religious leaders: “They tie up heavy burdens* [hard to carry] and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels.They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth. Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.”

  5. Asia for the Asians…..Africa for the Africans……..White Nations are open to everyone???

  6. Are you speaking of America? Has America ever been solely a white nation?

  7. We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of …
    How can it be interpreted any other way.

  8. Don’t leave out Britain; Europe, and Canada. Only White Nations are being “forced” to Diversify. No one is claiming China needs diversification. How come the UN is not demanding China fill up their Ghost Cities with African ‘refugees’? Not to mention Israel is now sending their African Refugees to Canada!

  9. Who is forcing us to diversify? Most Americans don’t seem to have a major problem with multiculturalism and we have been diversified for some time. Fortunately, or unfortunately for some, we have a country many want to come to.

  10. The men who wrote that were mostly Anglo-Americans. If you read “ourselves” in the narrowest sense then we shouldn’t allow anyone in that isn’t anglo-American. Is that your reading or do you claim that “ourselves” refers to “white” people in general. Blacks don’t count (or only 3/5’s as much). Please be clear as to exactly who you think “ourselves” refers to.

  11. Please be clear as to exactly who you think “ourselves” refers to.

  12. we have a country many want to come to.
    Not for long. Why will people from a third world want to come to just another third world.

  13. I don’t think that is likely in the U.S. Two very different countries with different histories.

  14. It’s a shame that that the American Conference of Bishops is throwing Catholic Immigrants under the Bus.

  15. Sure. The belief that the non-white races will treat the White minority equally the same is total denial; or purposeful deception. There will be NO affirmative action for white men and women. There will be NO entitlements for white men and women. There will be NO ebt cards, Food Banks etc., etc., for white men and women. It will be a Bolshevik style blood bath.

  16. It’s what Catholics do when they are being true to their faith. Jews,too. Muslims, Buddhists…everyone!

  17. Maybe they should focus on cleaning up the mess the Roman Church has help to create in Latin America over 500 years of being in bed with the ruling elite? Then people would not break the law and endanger their children to come here. Of course the American branch would shrink faster.

  18. At that time those not from Britain orginally were suspect even if white.

  19. There are plenty of other religious groupings who claim to own morality – and they’re all equally wrong.

    “On March 2, 2017, Cupich specifically forbade his priests to offer sanctuary to undocumented immigrants.” is not criticising “ALL the bishops” and you still don’t show any appreciation of those who risked arrest.

    Religion is inherently bad – even when meant well it is used (deliberately or without thought) to create image, wield power, control and subordinate others etc. etc.. It’s not alone in that but, if you want to create a better world, you need to encourage those who question and engage in internal revolution.

    Any group of humans will react in only one way to constant criticism – they’ll circle the wagons and repel those who attack. You, anymore than I, don’t have the firepower to destroy the RCC – change, if it happens, will come from within – don’t make it harder than necessary for those who are working for that change.

  20. Because as a “white” person I don’t want to live in an “all-white” country. I love the diversity and am glad that America is such a place.

  21. That was reversed after Mugabe’s ouster. Now land is being restored to former owners.

  22. Roy, this was a land of native people before the white people came and stole it from them. On this continent, same for Canada and Mexico. And, same for South and Central America, Caribbean Islands, and many African countries, some Asian Islands, Australia. Oh, more, I am sure.

    Maybe what white people need to do is go back to their land, which is Europe and western Asia, and leave other lands to their own native people. Or ask the native people if the white people can integrate with them.

    We white people forced diversity on native peoples of lands everywhere. So, it really is about forced diversification but it was okay when whites forced it on non-whites. Now we don’t want any more diversification from others because now it is ours, it is white peoples land.

    We had the power to steal the land for white people and now we want to keep it for white people.

    It really is all about the power, isn’t it?

    When we wanted this land and didn’t get the acquiescence of the natives, we warred against them. And because we had the bigger guns, we won. Is the only way to settle the issue of people of earth having space to live based on skin color and who has the biggest gun?

  23. Take a bar of “anti-White guilt” soap and scrub your mouth. “Stole It”. Get out of here. Pathetic. I pray you are not a White man.

  24. “The self styled defenders of the white race are always the most pathetic examples of it”
    -Rev. Jesse Custer

    BTW I would be happy to take up the collection plate for you to leave this country.

    You rely on racism because you are showing yourself to be far too inadequate to compete with the rest of the world. Having no skills, intelligence or background to be proud of. Only a physical trait you were born with. Making you pathetic even among people you consider “your own kind”.

  25. Have you ever thought, Roy, that God put people in different parts of the world , deliberately, so that people could develop, learn, organize, in different ways? A God who created a billion worlds must love diversity.

    We did take this land from native people just as the white/Euro people took over lands in many places on earth, destroying cultures, sometimes enslaving people, sometimes just forcing them only “reservations.” That really is the history and we white people do “own” this land because we had the more powerful weapons. We “own” this by right of arms, by conquest.

    Not that I think we can turn all the history around and just give lands back to whoever was the original owner. At this point we could never figure it out! As time goes on, millennia after millennia, we marry across cultural lines, we blend, we incorporate different parts of cultures into new ways of living. Who was the original “owner” of Scotland, Switzerland, Myanmar? The first one to farm a bit of land, or establish his herds in a valley?

    We should not pretend some sort of God given right. But, we could remember that God requires us to love one another, to care for one another. We are far from that!

  26. Are you of the opinion that as soon as the first explorers saw a few “Indians”….they should have boarded their ships and set sail back to Europe?

  27. I actually respect this opinion of yours — God put people in different parts of the world , deliberately — but I would elaborate on this point by saying God did not intend for us to mix our seed amongst the Races. But then I have this funny feeling that you have ZERO problem with the forced Diversity of White Western Lands: Europe; Canada; Australia; England; Scotland and Ireland. And you probably don’t have any problem with the DELIBERATE media saturation of “mixed marriages” on television. Would I be wrong?

  28. We all started from the same seed. We separated into different races. God did not make us separate but all in His image. More, from what we understand about evolution, we probably all started dark skinned – not white. What if that was God’s first thought about what mankind should look like? Interesting to think about.

    But I think God created our adaptability so that we could “inherit the earth.” (Not that we have done much to respect that inheritance and assure the good of the earth continues for those who come after us over the next 100,000 years.) That is what our development of different skin colors really is. An adaptability of the genes we carry to make it safer to live in different parts of the world. (Well, that, and I think God likes variety. How boring it would be if we were all clones of one another!)

    We also developed cultures to bind us together, in families and communities. God created that adaptability, too. We are social creatures and we need each other for company, for mutual support, for sharing our experiences. Oh, and to find mating partners.

    Do you really think that once we separated into some sort of mutual support communities of those who are all part of the same family or related by skin color, language, custom, that God intended that separation to be permanent? I don’t. I think one of the messages of Jesus is that all humanity is beloved of God and that we are called by God to love one another. I don’t think God smiles any more brightly on a marriage of white to white than He does on a marriage of white to black, or brown to yellow, or red to someone who is mixed race black/white. Do you really think this is a concern of God?

    Given globalization, world wide communications, jet airplanes, the global economy – we are not going to stay as separate as we have in the past. We are going to run into each other more and more. We are going to depend on one another more and more. Already we know that the destruction of the Amazon forests could affect oxygen levels round the world, just as we know that pollution from industrialized worlds is warming the earth, creating flooding in non-industrialized parts of the world. We are more and more aware of how we affect one another and of the need for us to recognize our common humanity.

    Oh, well. What I do think is we need to learn to go beyond what separates us and look at what unites us. We are all children of God.

  29. Where did Cain’s wife come from? Not from Adam and Eve’s loins.

  30. They were arrested for what amounts to disorderly conduct, not advocating at all.

  31. Maybe she did come from Adam’s and Eve’s loins. How do you know she didn’t? Or, maybe she came from the mother of Adam or Eve, or a sibling of one of them. Or, maybe Cain’s wife was the child of one of the fallen angels and a pre-human creature whose offspring the fallen angel intended to put in competition with those humans God made – oh, horrors.

    And you do know that I think this is a ridiculous question. We evolved over a long time. Those who study evolution have placed the first humans in Africa and done some mapping of the expansion of those humans out of Africa and around the world. We are all far more similar in our genes that that which separates us.

  32. How do you know she didn’t?


    We evolved over a long time.

    Good grief…..why are we even talking? We have nothing in common. This is a pointless conversation. Peace and good will to you.

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