Illegal immigrants should apologize says priest
Father Gary Graf of Chicago's Saint Gall Catholic Church wants illegal immigrant to aplogize to Americans.
May 4th, 2013
07:00 AM ET

Illegal immigrants should apologize says priest

By Nova Safo, CNN

Follow on Twitter: @Nova_Safo

Chicago, Illinois (CNN) - A Chicago priest is making headlines for having done something that likely no other American has experienced: he crossed into Mexico – and then crossed back into the U.S. illegally. He says he did it to understand what many in his mostly Latino congregation have gone through. And he has a message for them: apologize if you’ve come here illegally.

Father Gary Graf of Chicago’s Saint Gall Catholic church on the city's south side serves a predominantly Latino and immigrant part of town. He’s a charismatic figure, in his 50’s and in good shape. He used to be a boxer and he’s got a deep, dark tan. The tan is the result of his walk through the desert at the U-S-Mexico border, where he crossed back into the U-S illegally.

[1:25] “I’ve lived in Mexico, know language, culture. Lived among them here in the states. But have never experienced getting here the way they got here – the vast majority of them,” he says.

The experience, he says, has resulted in a simple message to illegal immigrants:

[4:40] “Sorry. Thank you. I need your help.”

He wants immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally to consider those seven words. He wants them to approach the topic of immigration reform from a different angle, by asking for forgiveness for breaking laws, by offering gratitude to a country that’s taken them in, and by asking for help from American citizens:

[5:15] “I said very clearly after what I just did, to enter the country the way you entered the country, does not give you the right to demand anything. You have to gain that right and the only way to gain that, in my humble opinion, is by showing humility and gratitude and by dialogue, asking for help to remain here not by ranting and raving, and forcing the issue.”

Graf is now waiting to see if the immigrants who hear his message will embrace it.

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Filed under: Behavior • Crime • Faith • International • Justice • Politics • Soundwaves • Stories
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Citizen

    Do not lump together all the people that speak Spanish, we have different roots, values,cultures, most South Americans we came legally, we had to show proof of income, police records, chest X rays, doctors certificate one os healthy.
    Central Americans and Chinese are the abusers, but why not, their children are given nationaltily at birth, California has lots of Chinese flying as tourists to have free medical care and citizenship for their anchor children.
    The Mexican and Federal Government publishes information on how to get benefits if illegal.
    No country permits. legal residents and many from latino countries are fed up with illegals.
    Look at the businesses behind illegal inmigration their owners are American , Indian, Pakistani born because they own Mexican Restaurants and want cheal slave labor.

    May 10, 2013 at 8:45 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jake

    The hispanic immigrants fill the pews but not the church coffers. The Bishop in San Bernardino CA admitted in the last big Amnesty push that the conservative anglo members of the flock do not agree with the church's immigration stance and their donations go down when the topic of amnesty is pushed by the Church. The reality is that there are more and more Catholic churches that have either english or spanish service. This immigration issues is not going to bring them together but push the two sides further apart.

    May 10, 2013 at 8:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Citizen

      Mexicans are the ones requesting this religious services. They like to go together like sheep, other ethnic groups we are fluent in English and we assimilate.
      What you say about Mass in Spanish is idiotic, I can not go to a Parish that is closer because all their services are in Vietnamese even that we do not have many living in the area.
      Have you seen that many of the Priests are from Africa lately?

      May 10, 2013 at 8:50 am | Report abuse |
  3. soleil2020

    So many people say that people should just "come here the legal way". I guess they don't understand that the process of immigrating is expensive and very complicated. Another thing I don't they understand is that many people are in a completely desperate situation that leads them to attempt to cross the border in hopes of working so they can send money home to feed their families. Many of those who come into the USA are minors, having been abandoned by their parents and have no idea what to do to try to have more chances of survival in their lives. How is an 8 year old or 12 year old child supposed to "come here the legal way". I do know what the answers are to deal with the problem of illegal immigration. I do think that it's possible for people to have a heart about it. If people would educate themselves about most of the personal stories of those to sneak across the border into the USA, they might have an ounce of human compassion...IF they are human enough to have compassion; If they are able to imagine themselves in a desperate situation with no money, no food, no hope for anything better, and only the ragged clothes on your back, and you may even be a child with no parents. They couldn't just come to the border and "ask for help". They would just be turned around at the border.

    May 9, 2013 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • soleil2020

      CORRECTION : i meant to say " I do NOT know what the answers are" ...

      May 10, 2013 at 12:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Jake

      Gee, let's let everyone in. Next time there's a famine in Somalia, let's airlift a few million starving Somalis to the US. Or let all those poor Bangladeshi factory workers making a few dollars a day come in. There's a lot of very poor and desperate people in the world. if we're suppose to be helping everyone, let's not have rules at all. Just let them all come in and spread the wealth accordingly.

      May 10, 2013 at 8:07 am | Report abuse |
  4. Andrew S.

    Christof Putzel crossed the border in a similar fashion in 2010 for the show Vanguard.

    May 9, 2013 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dell

    Whether or not Texas use to belong to Mexico is completely irrelevant!! Until it changes Texas, California and all of the other 50 states are apart of the United States of America. Therefore when you make a decision to cross that border, you should do so knowing that now you are an American citizen. What angers me is the disrespect of it all, you want to come here and get paid American money, enjoy the freedom's of our country because you do not have the same freedom's in your own country (or why else would you leave it) , but then you want to disrespect the US by not conforming to it and speaking English, paying taxes....etc You can be proud of your heritage & where your from without being disrespectful to the country that is harboring you, feeding you and your family, and you making a living from that country. That would be the same if I moved to Mexico, or Italy and demanded that everyone I encoutnered speak English. I'm in there country I should conform to them, respect their government, & follow their laws. If you came here illegally say okay, I came here the wrong way, but now I'm going to make it right. Get legal citizenship. How dare you march in the streets saying immigration reform & marching for freedom when you are illegal. You are ILLEGAL meaning you do not get liberties & freedom because your ILLEGAL!!!! I look at it this way, if your illegal and you've gotten away with it for 10 or more years & you get caught and deported just say hey, I had a good run, I was in the country illegally for years, they found out now it's time to go back until I can become legal. How are you going to march in the streets and demand to stay here when you didn't come here the legal way. It's insane!!!!

    May 9, 2013 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  6. GMR

    Mexicans are the only group that have not, and will not assimilate into this country as other nationalities have. Their proximately to the US border is as such they view the Southern US as an extension of their own country. And because much of the Southwest was originally a part of Mexico that was stolen during the Texas rebellion and the ensuing war, many Mexicans feel they are only reclaiming what is rightfully theirs. It is too late. The US is too politically correct to change the demographics. in another 50 – 80 years these same states will be clamoring to have their own country, or be to be united with Mexico. It's more or less game over for immigration control advocates.

    May 9, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  7. David

    @ gullible america & strong word
    I love how people sit cowardly behind a computer all day & troll the internet and say things that they wouldn't have the guts to say to a person's face. I'm sure they both will continue to check the boards throughout the day, sign in as multiple people to say some more cowardly stuff. The internet has really allowed people these days to hide behind their words & not have intelligent debates. COWARDS!!!!

    May 9, 2013 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  8. Caroline

    Coming from a spiritual aspect yes there are two sins involved here. 1. Immigrants coming here illegally, so the priest is right that they should ask for forgiveness & try to obtain legal citizenship. 2. America taking advantage of their illegal status and paying them less than minimum wage to work for their companies. That's wrong in itself. So once we correct those two wrong's & make it right then this country can begin to build America in the right way.

    May 9, 2013 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  9. Beth

    The clergy is absolutely correct! No one is saying that you cannot come to America and want a better life, but you have to do it legally!!! Until you are able to do it legally then guess what, you can't come here. Then you also cannot come here and demand that we conform to you when you are the foreigner. I should not walk into a store & have check out machines ask me "Englih" or "Spanish". I should not go to a fast food restaurant and be frustrated because the hispanic worker can barely speak English. I should not have to be bilingual to work in an American country and miss out on job opportunities. Nor do I have the right to make money here & not pay taxes & not have a social security number and be accounted for because I'm here illegally. When American companies stop hiring these people to be their janitors, cooks,etc...for low pay then when get down to who has the right to be here. No other nationality does this but hispanics, particularly Mexicans. Italians don't do it, Africans, Indians, or Germans. It's only the hispanic culture that comes illegally and think they have a right to be here & make no attempts to obtain citizenship or speak the language. It's not right and the government really needs to crack down on it. You have all the right to come to America & live your life but you have to do it legally. Just like me as an American has to do it legally in any other country.

    May 9, 2013 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
  10. mickey1313

    I useally do not agree with the clergy, but I think he hit part of the nail on the head. An apology would do no good, but they should at least act greatful, respectful, and absolutly acomadating to every single american. They act that they have some god given right to be hear, guess what, they do not. We need to set up a system that we radically punish the mexican government for this BS. Maybe for every 100 iligal imigrents we detect, mexico gets 100 metric tons of our garbage dumped from a plane onto mexico CITY, sounds fair, there trash comes here, so we dump our trash on them.

    May 9, 2013 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |
  11. Rebecca

    Apologize, really? How will that correct the fact that illegal immigrants come in, take jobs, export more money to their home countries than our annual trade deficit, burden us with massive expenses for social services, and so on? They are a massive expense that we can no longer afford. Cut the nonsense of continual increase of "legal" aliens as well. We no longer have a need and we do not owe these people anything.

    May 9, 2013 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
    • mickey1313

      Agreed, we should not be forced to help clean up the problems of another nation, we have enough problems with the americans in america.

      May 9, 2013 at 12:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Joey

      I also agree, They are a burden that this country can no long afford. I am tired of paying taxes for social services that help support these people that receive benefits that they do not deserve to get. This country would be better off without these illegals.

      May 9, 2013 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
      • Dell

        I agree Joey that it's not right to pay taxes while an illegal immigrant is allowed to work, make money, & not pay taxes nor have a social security #. That part of what you are saying is correct. Also it's a dangerous situation when you are unaccounted for because you do not have a social security #. I live in TX so you can imagine that there are millions of illegals here. I look at the news nightly & there are tons of violent acts committed by hispanics in which alot of them where illegal, therefore they are not in the system so it's difficult to trace them. It's very easy to committ a crime & know that you can just hop back over the boarder and not have to deal with your consequences, or committ a crime and the police are not able to locate you because you have no information in the US database. The government is going to have to crack down on this, it's really getting out of hand.

        May 9, 2013 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |