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100 Women, 100 Miles march for immigration reform launched at York County Prison

Written by Flint McColgan, York Daily Record | Sep 16, 2015 6:30 PM
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The Rev. Jonathan Sawicki of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church of York gives a blessing to the "100 Women, 100 Miles" event before they leave the entrance of the the York County Prison in Springettsbury Township on Tuesday. Participants in the event seek cultural change and political reform for immigration in America. The group began a nine-day journey to Washington, D.C. to greet Pope Francis when he arrives there Sept. 22 for a multi-day visit. (Paul Kuehnel - York Daily Record/ Sunday News)

(York) -- Inmates locked their fingers through the chainlink fences and watched a large group of activists link hands and touch feet for a moment of silence on the grounds of the York County Prison Tuesday morning.

Soon the silence, directed by Wendy Von Zirpolo, who ministers to a Unitarian Universalist congregation in Massachusetts, was broken as 100 women and their myriad of supporters broke out in chants that alternated between Spanish and English and waved both handmade- and professionally-made signs.

The message was clear: They want cultural change and political reform for immigration in America.

Andrea Cristina Mercado, an organizer, said the goal is to change the nation's policies to "policies of compassion and not policies of cruelty."

The group began marching that morning on an nine-day journey -- 100 Women, 100 Miles -- to Washington, D.C. to greet Pope Francis when he arrives there Sept. 22 for a multi-day visit.

"With Pope Francis' visit to the United States, our faith and our act of love can create the world that we want for our children," said Mercado, a co-chair of the We Belong Together campaign that launched the march."We each carry personal reasons for why we are embarking on this journey. I believe in the power of our intentions,

"I believe in collective prayer," she added in her address to the rally. "We can inspire the American people and our politicians to treat migrants and refugees with dignity and respect."

"We can inspire the American people and our politicians to treat migrants and refugees with dignity and respect." --Andrea Cristina Mercado, organizer

The Rev. Jonathan Sawicki, a priest at Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church of York -- colloquially referred to as St. Mary's -- said the Catholic Church has been "ground zero" for support of immigrant understanding and policy reform for years.

"What these women intend to do is give a human face to what is too often seen as an abstract in the press," he said fresh off of giving a blessing and a prayer in Spanish. "These are good people, these are hard-working people, and these women, and these children and the other people who are marching with them are showing to the nation a very human, normal face."

The march will take the women and others through seven locations other than York.

Today they will march from New Freedom at the Heritage Rail Trail County Park, and by Saturday night they will be greeted in Baltimore by the Rev. David Carl Olson, who ministers to the congregation of the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore.

Olson's church and the Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church will house the walkers Saturday night.

Olson was one of many members of the Unitarian organization, including members of the York and Gettysburg congregations of the Unitarian Universalist church, who came to show their support for the walk and the issue. The organization has a nationwide campaign supporting immigration reform called "Stand on the Side of Love."

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Pilar Molina, right, whose husband was on a hunger strike while held in the York County Prison, speaks during the "100 Women, 100 Miles" event. (Paul Kuehnel - York Daily Record/ Sunday News)

"My husband, who is now dead, was an undocumented worker from the Dominican Republic, and I have now in my home several undocumented migrants from Mexico who need a place to live," Olson said, adding that, to him, the issue "is really about the need for family reunification."

That seemed to be the issue, too, for Pilar Molina, who said her husband was detained in the York County Prison's Immigrations and Customs Enforcement detention center for five months and even performed a hunger strike to see his family again.

She said she did as much as she could to get him out, including civil disobedience that led to her arrest in front of the White House in Washington, D.C., last year.

She said her husband, who like her is from Mexico, was detained for reentry. He was released June 19, 2014.

Molina said she would only be able to walk on Tuesday. But the four and a half mile journey from the detention center to St. Mary's church was no slouch of a walk.

Mercado sat at a table to rest her feet as more than 100 people lined up within the church to partake in hot dogs and burgers, sides of potato and macaroni salads and a slice of cake for desert provided and served by United Auto Workers Local 1872.

"It will be a long journey," said the woman whose longest walk to date was a pilgrimage in Spain.

But well worth it, because she said that in this display "we are more powerful than we could ever imagine."

Videos of the march

Schedule of the '100 Women, 100 Miles' march

The "100 Women, 100 Miles" event is a part of the We Belong Together campaign of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, according to its website.

Here is the schedule for the march:

9/15: York, PA - Starting at: 3400 Concord Rd, York, PA 17402

9/16: New Freedom, PA - Starting at: Heritage Trail County Park

9/17: Monkton, MD - Starting at: Campbell Rd & Hwy 45

9/18: Lutherville - Timonium, MD - Starting at: 1900 Monkton Rd, Monkton, MD 21111

9/19: Baltimore, MD - Starting at: 1021 Dulaney Valley Rd, Baltimore, MD 21204

9/20: Jessup, MD - Starting at: 12 W Franklin St, Baltimore, MD 21201

9/21: Silver Spring, MD - Starting at: 7250 Washington Blvd, Elkridge, MD

9/22: Washington, DC - Starting at: 1600 St Camillus Dr, Silver Spring, MD 20903

• 4:00pm at the Basilica - 400 Michigan Ave NE, Washington, DC 20017

9/23: Washington, DC - Pilgrimage on the Ellipse

Information provided by B. Loewe, a spokesman for the We Belong Together campaign

Related

Locals join 100 Women, 100 Miles march for immigration reform

U.S. Rep. Scott Perry says the time is right for immigration reform (2013)

Despite setbacks, immigration activists remain hopeful for reform (Oct. 2013

Immigrant families, advocates rally today at York County Prison (June 2014)

Trump: Deport children of immigrants living illegally in US

Emotions rise as people hear immigration plan (Nov. 2014)

 


This article comes to us through a partnership between York Daily Record and WITF. 

Published in News, York

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