CAIR-Chicago Supports “Access to Religious Ministry Act”

Feature 219This week, CAIR-Chicago joined a broad coalition advocating for the Access to Religious Ministry Act, which seeks to ensure religious workers’ reasonable access to immigrant detainees in county jails across the state. The bill is sponsored by Reps. Daniel Burke and Julie Hamos and other members of the Illinois General Assembly. As the current county jail policy stands, the access granted to religious workers at McHenry and Tri-County is limited to less than two hours each month—averaging to a mere 30 seconds per detainee.

Wide Interfaith Support

The bill was announced at a press conference in Chicago this Tuesday, March 25. The bill’s supporters include the Illinois Coalition for Immigration and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), Chicago Metropolitan Sanctuary Alliance and religious leaders from the St. Adalbert United Methodist Church, Sisters of Mercy, and Temple Beth Shalom.

At the press conference, CAIR-Chicago Governmental Affairs Coordinator Shahzeen Karim discussed CAIR-Chicago’s support. “We fight on a daily basis to ensure that the religious freedoms and accommodation guaranteed by our constitution are not trampled upon.” she said. “And supporting this Act is no different.”

If passed, the bill will allow immigrant detainees the same access to religious workers as is currently allowed for detainees in criminal custody. The bill will remove current visitation restraints, such as the allotted visiting time, the number of visits, or restraints depending on the party that is visited.

Detainee Concerns

As the U.S. Department of Homeland Security continues to rapidly accelerate its rate of immigrant workplace raids, detentions, and deportations, there are growing concerns as to the civil treatment of detainees. Immigrant advocates and religious workers at the press conference Tuesday cited cases of suicide, depression, and anxiety faced by detainees as a result of the sudden separation from their families.

Media Coverage

The Chicago Tribune and other Chicago media reported on the proposed bill and its advocates.

SEE: Chicago Tribune: More clergy visits sought at state deportation sites | March 26, 2008

Daily Herald: Getting religion to detainees at McHenry Co. jail | March 27, 2008

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