When three-quarters of all immigrants in the United States are women and children, women and mothers know that it’s ultimately our families who keep paying the human cost of our nation’s broken immigration system.
It’s perhaps the main reason why 100 immigrant women, along with their supporters, will walk 100 miles from Pennsylvania to D.C. to highlight the issue of immigration reform as Pope Francis visits to address a historic joint session of Congress.
The immigration and family advocates — which include members from We Belong Together, PICO National Network, the #1Not1More Campaign, and other groups — will begin their walk on September 15th at the York Detention Center in Pennsylvania, where many of their family members have been detained.
The women and supporters plan to hold a prayer vigil outside the White House upon their arrival in D.C. on September 22nd, with Pope Francis scheduled to meet with President Obama there the very next day.
“Everyone told me my husband was going to be deported, but one of the few things that kept me going was my faith,” said one woman whose husband was spared from deportation by a judge last year. She’ll be a part of the walk, too.
“Maybe Pope Francis will hear our call,” she said.
The pope has spoken frequently and with compassion about the struggles of immigrants, and he’s expected to address the topic again while in the U.S. Church officials have said the pope, who is from Argentina, will also speak in Spanish at many of his appearances. Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language in the U.S., and the first language of many of the nation’s immigrants.
“The Bible says that God has no borders,” said Juana Flores, a 54-year-old Mexican-American woman and former Catholic nun who is flying from San Francisco to join the march. “We want him to say there should be an end to laws and policies separating families via arrests and deportations. We want him to talk about reform without restriction that lets people who are just trying to survive be here.”
In 2013, the Pope tweeted, “We pray for a heart which will embrace immigrants. God will judge us upon how we have treated the most needy,” and slammed governments who treat migrants as “pawns on the chessboard of humanity”:
They are children, women and men who leave or who are forced to leave their homes for various reasons, who share a legitimate desire for knowing and having, but above all for being more.
Not infrequently, the arrival of migrants, displaced persons, asylum-seekers and refugees gives rise to suspicion and hostility. There is a fear that society will become less secure, that identity and culture will be lost, that competition for jobs will become stiffer and even that criminal activity will increase.
A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization – all typical of a throwaway culture – towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world.
That same year, Pope Francis laid a wreath at the Italian island of Lampedusa to commemorate the now-thousands of African migrants who have lost their lives at sea trying to reach Europe. And earlier this year, he said he wished to visit the U.S./Mexico border as “a beautiful gesture of brotherhood and support for immigrants.”
Juana, a domestic worker and one of the march’s participants, added, “We have much work to do to bring about the world of dignity the pope describes, but we believe each step on our hundred mile journey will bring us another step closer.”