Saturday, 22 June 2024 01:42

US: 100 women plan 100-mile march to support immigration reform

Monday, 24 August 2015

Inspired by Pope Francis' prayerful pleading for immigrant families, 100 women are preparing to march 100 miles - from Pennsylvania to the U.S. Capitol - to highlight their call for "commonsense" immigration reform.

Buses to the starting point are being reserved. Donated meals and church-basement lodgings are being arranged. Processional banners emblazoned with Francis' statements about the dignity and common humanity of immigrants are being prepared.

Four people from New Jersey and five from Pennsylvania, including a Norristown woman playing a big role in the event's promotion, are committed to the trek.

Donations to support the walkers on the weeklong pilgrimage are being accepted by We Belong Together, the New York-based coalition of domestic workers, women's organizations, and immigrant-rights groups that is organizing the roving protest.

"Some places have beds. We may buy inflatable mattresses and in some places use hotels," said march organizer Anna Duncan from the campaign's satellite office in Washington.

"We are looking for people who can go the whole 100 miles," she said, although supporters are welcome to take part in just a leg or two of the journey.

Organizers say more than 100 people from all corners of the United States have expressed interest. Many more from Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey are expected to attend just the launch.

Starting with a Sept. 15 interfaith service outside the York County Prison, where U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) prisoners are jailed pending deportation, the marchers are to wind south through New Freedom, Pa., then through five cities and towns in Maryland, before arriving in Washington on Sept. 22 for a prayer vigil on the eve of the pope's planned address to Congress.

In communication with the Vatican, We Belong Together formally invited the pope to its closing vigil on the morning of Sept. 23 at a Washington-area church yet to be announced.

Participants want to share their stories of sacrifice with the pope, "a person of such moral authority," said Duncan, and have him "echo what he is hearing." They hope to draw the pontiff's attention, if not his presence.

Pilar Molina, who was born in Mexico and brought to the United States as a child, qualified for a deferral from deportation in 2013 and runs the Tortilleria la Familia grocery in Norristown. She said she would march to put her family's plight front and center on the pope's radar screen.

"I still cry every time I am interviewed," she said Wednesday, recalling how the arrest of her husband, Israel Resendiz Hernandez, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, tore her family apart. "Hopefully, we can get to see the pope, and he can give us his blessing," she said.

Hernandez was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in January 2013 on charges of repeatedly crossing the southern border illegally.

Molina, 30, a 2003 graduate of Norristown High School, is active with We Belong Together and is featured in an online promotion for the march.

"I want the pope to be able to touch the congressmen people, and the president, their hearts," she said, tearing up in the five-minute video. "I want him to make them understand how we have to keep our families together."

Last year, with the support of Juntos, an immigrant-rights group with chapters in Norristown and Philadelphia, Molina waged a successful public campaign to get her husband freed from detention after he had engaged in a 19-day hunger strike to throw a spotlight on his case. Released under orders to check in with ICE every two weeks, he was allowed to rejoin Molina and their two U.S.-born daughters, Caitlin, 10, and Ariana, 4, while his lawyer fights his deportation.

Juntos executive director Erika Almiron applauded Molina for her "fierce" commitment to her family.

She said Juntos was "mobilizing" several busloads of demonstrators to support Molina and the other marchers by attending the send-off.

Almiron, whose group also is spearheading a campaign to close Berks County Residential Center, the Leesport facility where undocumented immigrant women and their minor children are incarcerated, said supporting the march seemed only logical for an activist like herself, who was raised Catholic in Norristown and draws inspiration from Francis' ministry to immigrants.

The march "is launching in our state, and York is one of the largest immigrant detention centers on the east side of the United States," she said. Participants want to tell their stories, both to reach out to the media, and to "provide the pope with fresh material" for his sermons.

"So many times human-rights abuses are about what is happening in other countries," Almiron said. "I think it's time for the U.S. to look inside."

Source: Philly. com

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