Earlier this week a group of immigration advocates, mainly women, organized a protest and march that began at the York County Prison and would ultimatly end in Washington D.C., more than 100 miles away. The activists’ main objective was to raise awareness of the plight of the millions of immigrants living in the United States who may be facing deportation.
The women planned their march to coincide with Pope Francis’ visit to the United States. They hoped to attract the attention of the Pope when he met with Congress on September 22nd. During the Pope’s visit, he is scheduled to meet with immigrants in the U.S. Pope Francis has spoken out recently about the duty of individuals to help those in need, in particular immigrants. He specifically spoke about the situation in Europe where the Syrian immigrants who are fleeing their homeland, leaving behind all they own to escape the tyrannical Islamic extremists in their country. The Pope asked churches to “open their doors” to the plight of these desperate families.
The march began at the prison located in York County, Pennsylvania, Springettsbury Township largely in part because the husband of one of the organizers, Pilar Molina, had spent more than five months at that facility for the crime of re-entering the United States unlawfully.
Israel Resendiz-Hernandez, Ms. Molina’s husband was released from immigration custody in June of last year after leading a 19 day hunger strike at the detention facility. Mr. Resendiz-Hernandez is a business owner in Norristown, Pennsylvania, where he lives with his wife and two United States citizen children, who were born in the country.
The protesters, approximately 100 women strong, began their march with high spirits. However, as the day progressed and stories of the plights of their family members were relayed, the mood changed to a more somber one.
One of the stories shared was by Maria Galleta, who traveled from San Diego, California to York, Pennsylvania, in order to join the protest. Ms. Galleta, a United States citizen, works as a volunteer in Tijuana, Mexico just across the U.S. border. There she helps individuals who have been deported from the United States to Mexico, by feeding them a daily breakfast. On average, she sees 1500 people every morning. Once a week she facilitates the meeting between families in the United States and their family members who have been deported by meeting through holes in the fence that separates the two countries. Children are able to see fathers and tough fathers who are no longer able to live with the in the United States.
When immigration is discussed as a topic in the United States it is usually addressed at Latin American and Caribbean populations. However, individuals from Africa and the Middle East are being deported to Mexico in increasing numbers. Since many of these migrants from other parts of the world travel through Mexico in order to enter the country, that is where the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, deports them back to.
The march may not have called for as much national attention as it had anticipated, but it united advocates of like minds and drew an awareness to the plight of immigrants for those who witnessed these determined women.