Fallbrook parish target of anti-immigration protesters

.- The day-laborer hiring center of St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Fallbrook, California has been the target of a series of demonstrations, organized by the San Diego Minutemen. The demonstration on July 7 was the group’s third demonstration in front of the largely Hispanic church in less than a month.

San Diego Minutemen is an anti-illegal immigration group. Its website claims that a day laborer said almost all of the workers at the church site are illegal. This day laborer contested claims that the parish was taking a cut of the workers’ pay, but said workers had to give the church free labor.

The church pastor, Fr. Edward Kaicher, denied this claim. He said workers have volunteered for the church in the past but are not required to do so. He told the North County Times the church has offered workers breakfast and a place for meeting employers for the last 15 years.

“It’s just part of what we are as a church,” he was quoted as saying.

Minutemen founder Jeff Schwilk said his group had received complaints from Fallbrook residents about increased crime and the day-laborer site. He contacted immigration authorities, but they said they would not close the center because it is on church property. So the group has resorted to protesting.

The protests featured a bullhorn, picket signs, and an effigy of a priest in a cassock wearing a devil’s mask with a caption displaying the words, “More ILLEGAL ALIENS = MORE $$$.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0OMst4o6lc&NR=1 (all video provided by Minuteman organization)

According to eyewitnesses, at the first protest on June 16, demonstrators shouted to children entering the church for their First Communion that their parents were illegal and would be deported, reported the California Catholic.

A Minuteman sympathizer yelled at a Hispanic man, who began to argue with protesters: “It’s about the law, understand, comprende? ...If you rob a bank you’re going to jail... if you’re aiding and abetting illegal aliens, you’re breaking the law.”

When tensions increased between churchgoers and protesters, a protester reported, churchgoers began “swearing, flipping us off, threatening us...” Protesters responded by calling churchgoers “vile, disgusting human beings.”

One protester said: “Have some respect for America... You don’t have to hate this country because you’re Catholic.”

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights issued a statement, criticizing the “anti-Catholic bigotry and harassment” displayed at the protests.

“There are legitimate ways to protest. This is not one of them,” the statement reads. “By succumbing to anti-Catholic bigotry and harassment, the San Diego Minutemen have discredited their cause and have no moral grounds upon which to make their appeal.”

The Catholic League urged all Catholics to oppose the group. The Minutemen say they will continue protesting at the church until the day-laborer center shuts down.

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