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100 Immigrant Women Are Marching 100 Miles to Greet the Pope in D.C

They want him to help change “policies of cruelty” towards undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

Image via We Belong Together's Facebook page.

Two days ago, 100 immigrant women departed a detention center in York County, Pennsylvania and began walking in the direction of the White House. The 100-mile journey will end on Tuesday in D.C., where they will greet Pope Francis on his first-ever visit to Congress, and hold a closing vigil for migrant women. The campaign, called #100Women100Miles and organized by a non-profit organization called We Belong Together, is part of an effort to raise the call for better immigration policies.

The debate on immigration reform has become a vitriolic one as election season ramps up. This week, Republican candidates took the stage and showcased some of the more offensive aspects of their campaign platforms. At one point, professional troll Donald Trump told the audience, “This is a country where we speak English, not Spanish.”

In response to the Republican presidential debate, the 100 women wrote and signed an open letter addressing the candidates. “This is precisely the type of rhetoric that seeds and promotes hate violence, and emboldens the most hateful among us,” they said, critisizing the candidates’ discussion. “This is type of hatred that often results in the tragic loss of human life. And, it creates the context for hate-based policies with profound humanitarian implications.”

The women, who are composed of activists and volunteers from all over the country, have travelled ten miles a day for the past couple of days, marching along the East Coast. Many immigration reform activists hope the pope, who will be the first-ever to make a congressional visit in the U.S., will advocate for a U.S. immigration policy that is more symathetic to those coming across the border.

Last summer, for World Day of Refugees and Migrants, the Pope released a statement urging for compassion for refugees and migrants, as more and more people around the world are being forced to leave their home countries as a result of war or economic devestation. “The reality of migration, given its new dimensions in our age of globalization, needs to be approached and managed in a new, equitable and effective manner,” he wrote. “More than anything, this calls for international cooperation and a spirit of profound solidarity and compassion.”

The organizers of #100Women100Miles are optimistic that the Pope will practice the same kind of empathy towards undocumented immigrants here in the U.S. In a speech she delivered in York County at the detention center on Tuesday, We Belong Together co-chair Andrea Christina Mercado said the march was organized with the intent to change “policies of cruelty”.

"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," she said, as she launched the march. “We each carry personal reasons for why we are embarking on this journey. I believe in the power of our intentions.”

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