Catholic Church Protecting Hispanics

Emily Sinovic, KOKI-TV (Tulsa), November 7, 2007

Priests are pledging to go to jail if that’s what it takes to protect illegal immigrants from the immigration crackdown.

Last Thursday House Bill 1804 went into effect, requiring legal documentation for any immigrant to live or work in the state.

About half of the Eastern Oklahoma Catholic Diocese is Hispanic, that’s about 60,000 Catholic parishioners.

Bishop James Slattery tells FOX23 News it doesn’t matter how many are legal or illegal, he doesn’t know because the church doesn’t ask. He says the Catholic Church will help protect all of them from the new law.

At an early morning weekday mass, midtown’s Saint Francis Xavier Church, along with every other Catholic parish in the state, welcomes anyone.

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“Anyone who comes in and is in need, we take care of them. That’s all. We don’t ask them if they are a citizen or not.” Bishop James Slattery of Eastern Oklahoma’s Catholic Diocese says if law enforcement tries to question their parishioners, he and other priests will stand in the way.

“If I have to go to jail for exercising my priesthood or my pastoral leadership then I will go to jail, I won’t be the first. History books are filled with bishops or priests who have gone to jail for the gospel.”

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Both Tulsa police and sheriff’s deputies say parishioners do not need to worry. Law enforcement will not actively look for illegal immigrants unless they’re criminals wanted in an ongoing investigation.

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