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USA: Why 100 women walked 100 miles

USA: Why 100 women walked 100 miles

by IDWFED published Sep 28, 2015 12:00 AM
Ai-jen Poo: 100 immigrant women walked from Pennsylvania to D.C. during Pope's visit to urge leaders to turn Pope's message to action. She says the women want a pathway to legal status in the country where they now labor; to be free to be proud members of society.



Read the original article in full: Why 100 women walked 100 miles | CNN


On Tuesday, I set out on a 100-mile journey from an immigrant detention facility in central Pennsylvania to Washington with 100 immigrant girls and women -- ages 4 to 73 -- to welcome Pope Francis to the United States.

The women who joined are like women we see every day: working as nannies and caregivers for the elderly or as janitors in our office buildings or serving our food in the neighborhood restaurant. Less visible to us is the reality that some of the women have deportation orders pending. Others have waited for over a decade to see their children. Still others have loved ones in detention.

We announced the pilgrimage through immigrant community organizations, inviting women to join us in echoing Pope Francis' message of compassion toward migrants and refugees, in light of a mounting, global refugee crisis and the ongoing plight of 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States living and working without a pathway to legal status.

Women from Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa, living in over a dozen states around the country, raised funds from their churches, co-workers and friends to participate.

Photo: National Domestic Workers Alliance/FACEBOOK

Over a week of walking, I learned the stories of many of the women. They told of risks that they have taken out of love for their families, from crossing borders to working in the shadow economy, and expressed a deep appreciation for Pope Francis' message.

On the first day, I walked with Silvia, a 47-year old immigrant from Mexico. She has worked as a housekeeper in Seattle for 15 years. Her employers include executives at Amazon and Boeing.

She enjoys cleaning houses, transforming daily disorder into a pristine place someone can call home. Each house presents a different challenge of sequencing and strategy, depending on the number of bedrooms, bathrooms and pets.

Silvia is proud that her cleaning jobs paid for her daughter's college education. Her daughter's dream is to become an immigration lawyer. Silvia was born and raised Catholic, and although she doesn't make it to church every Sunday, she prays every day.

When I asked her what she prays for, she said, "To see my mom again. And for courage, so that I can be strong for my daughter."

For Silvia, Pope Francis is the embodiment of courageous moral leadership for these times. He brings sweet relief from the anti-immigrant rhetoric that has become a staple feature of our political conversation. He has said, "We must respond to the globalization of migration with the globalization of charity and cooperation."

It was Pope Francis' message that inspired the women to walk the 100 miles as a symbol of the strength and endurance it takes to care for your family, to love and to assert your dignity while risking being reported to immigration customs enforcement by an employer or even a neighbor

Silvia, for example, lacks legal status in this country, and has been separated from her mother for 15 years. If she leaves to visit her mother, she could be separated from her daughter indefinitely. Her mother's sight has begun to fail, and her legs have lost their strength. Silvia's dream is to see her again, before her mother loses her mental functions. In a voice overcome with sorrow, Silvia told me that her mother turned 85 while we were on our pilgrimage.

Source: Ai-Jen Poo/CNN

Story Type: Story

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