Chicago Religious Leaders Hold Prayer Vigil To Highlight U.S. Incarceration Epidemic

“You don’t have to pray, believe in the same God or even a God to come to a prayer vigil,” Pastor Thomas R. Gaulke told a small group assembled in a meeting room at First Lutheran Church of the Trinity in Bridgeport. 

Gaulke and the group were finalizing an agenda for a prayer vigil that some 60 people attended last night for the families and friends of loved ones who have been incarcerated. The vigil, which took place in an empty lot on 31st street near the 9th District Chicago police station and the Bridgeport Homes housing project, came together as part of a collaboration between faith leaders like Gaulke and community organizing groups, including Bridgeport Alliance, IIRON and Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation.

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Immigrant Rights Advocates To Obama: 'Stop Deportations Now' (VIDEO)

Roughly 100 immigrant rights advocates hosted a candlelight vigil Thursday evening near President Barack Obama’s Kenwood neighborhood home, urging the president to take strong and swift administrative action on deportations. 

“The president has said that he will take administrative action to address the immigration crisis, but months after he’s ordered a review of deportations, he has yet to act,” said Lawrence Benito, CEO of the Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

Deportations have reached record highs during Obama’s tenure as president, and Thursday’s protesters marched around his Chicago neighborhood while praying for an overhaul of the nation’s broken immigration system — and a halt to deportations.

“We join families who bear the brunt of this crisis to call on the president to act boldly and swiftly to fight for families,” Benito said.

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Foster To DoD: Let DREAMers Serve In Military

As President Barack Obama weighs executive actions on immigration issues, U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL,11) is calling on the Department of Defense to allow young undocumented immigrants known as DREAMers to serve in the military.

In 2012, Obama set up the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which grants a two-year protection against deportation for DREAMers, or immigrants who came to the United States as young children prior to June of 2007. The program lets the immigrants work in the country legally, for example, but it does not provide them with a pathway to citizenship or allow them to join the U.S. Armed Forces.

"To qualify for a DACA exemption, applicants must undergo background checks and finish high school," Foster said at a press conference Friday morning in Washington, D.C. "It is simply bad policy to turn away these young men and women while we struggle to find qualified Americans who are able and willing to serve. And it is morally reprehensible to deny these patriotic young men and women the opportunity to serve the country they love."

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Chicagoans Push Back Against Walgreens' Potential Tax Inversion (VIDEO)

Tax fairness activists delivered 70,000 petition signatures to a downtown Chicago Walgreens store Thursday, calling on the nation’s largest pharmacy chain to remain a U.S company and pay its "fair share of taxes."

It is rumored that Deerfield-based Walgreen Co. is considering plans to reincorporate itself offshore in Switzerland, a "tax haven," through a maneuver called a corporate tax inversion. Such a move could reportedly cost U.S. taxpayers $4 billion in lost tax revenue over a five-year period.

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Sheriff Dart, Chicago Faith Leaders Discuss Incarceration Alternatives For Mentally Ill Inmates (VIDEO)

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has pledged to work with Chicago community and faith leaders in their effort to establish pilot restorative justice "hubs" with a focus on mental health services on the South and Southwest Sides as a means to keep people with mental illness out of the county's jail.

The Reclaim Campaign, comprised of Chicago community and church leaders, wants to see more community-based alternatives to incarceration created in order to reduce the number of nonviolent inmates at the jail. Specifically, the group has called for community mental health centers, or hubs, to work towards preventing those with mental illness from being unnecessarily incarcerated.

At a packed public meeting Monday evening hosted by the Reclaim Campaign at the South Side's St. Gall Church, Teresa Fraga, with the Pilsen Neighbors Community Council and Gamaliel of Metro Chicago, said a restorative justice hub would serve as "a community-based, accessible, affordable institution that provides health care to the uninsured, the underinsured and the undocumented."

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