100 women are marching 100 miles for migrant dignity

100 women in matching t-shirts walk along the side of the road, holding signs that say "We Belong Together."

100 women continue their march for migrant dignity. (via We Belong Together Facebook page)

Starting yesterday, 100 women began a 100-mile pilgrimage from York County Detention Center to Washington D.C., just in time for the Pope’s arrival. Each woman carries her own story of dealing with our country’s inhumane immigration system: facing deportation herself, living with family members in detention, or being continually excluded from the Obama administration’s deportation relief efforts

Take Rosi Carrasco, a leader in the movement for migrant rights, who has lived in the country for 20 years yet is still not eligible for deferred action. She has risked deportation multiple times participating in civil disobedience actions to fight for humane immigration policy, and this week, she’ll be doing it again.

Or Ana Cañenguez, who is wearing the same shoes that she wore while walking five days through the desert with her children to cross into the country. She is currently in deportation proceedings, but she is marching. Monique Nguyen’s family, refugees from Vietnam, have all left the US because of rising anti-immigrant sentiment, but she is marching today. Rosario Reyes is marching in the hopes that she will one day be reunited with her son, who she left in El Salvador 12 years ago.

One of the marchers, Juana Flores, remembers the last time the Pope visited her home. She was a nun at the time, living in Oaxaca, Mexico, and she helped to prepare his meals. Now she is co-director of the San Francisco organization Mujeres Unidas y Activas, which provides services to women dealing with intimate partner violence and workplace mistreatment. Juana wrote about her experience as an immigrant in California, and why she is marching today with 99 other women.

“When I came to the United States, I was one of the people [the Pope] describes as “leaving their homelands, with a suitcase full of fears and desires, to undertake a hopeful and dangerous trip in search of more humane living conditions.” I had left the religious life, and brought my two young children with me. Upon arrival, I did not receive the welcome Pope Francis describes as the duty of each country.

With raids happening regularly in my neighborhood in San Francisco, I was scared to leave the house. Street names and new customs were unfamiliar. I saw neighbors taken away and families who had come to escape violence sent back into those precarious situations.

Facing that adversity in Mexico had affirmed my decision to transition to lay life and come to the United States. During the decade I spent in the convent, I was taught dedication, discipline and integrity. But I realized that I had a different calling, to live out God’s mission alongside people and immersed in the daily workings of the world, not removed from it.”

These aren’t just any women who are marching this week. No, the Pope has an army coming at him: 100 courageous and fierce advocates shaking the earth with their march as they call for dignity and justice for migrants everywhere.

Read more about the march and see where participants are stopping along the way.

Header image credit: We Belong Together Facebook page

Bay Area, California

Juliana is a digital storyteller for social change. As a writer at Feministing since 2013, her work has focused on women's movements throughout the Americas for environmental justice, immigrant rights, and reproductive justice. In addition to her writing, Juliana is a Senior Campaigner at Change.org, where she works to close the gap between the powerful and everyone else by supporting people from across the country to launch, escalate and win their campaigns for justice.

Juliana is a Latina feminist writer and campaigner based in the Bay Area.

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