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Why Would 100 Women Walk 100 Miles? They Were Inspired by the Pope

Leaving today from the York County Detention Center in Pennsylvania, 100 women are starting on a 100-mile pilgrimage to share their stories of migration. The women were inspired by Pope Francis' call for dignity for migrants and urge for parishes and countries to open their doors to refugees. The women will walk about 15 miles a day and will arrive in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 22, the same day the pope arrives for a U.S. visit.

One of the leaders of the march, former nun Juana Flores and current co-director of Mujeres Unidas y Activas in San Francisco, explained how the pope inspired for the march:

Pope Francis has said that the globalization of migration requires a globalization of charity and cooperation. He describes a world where no one is seen as useless, out of place or disposable, a church without borders, and nations that welcome the stranger. We have much work to do to bring about the world of dignity the pope describes, but we believe each step on our hundred-mile journey will bring us another step closer.

During an election cycle where many presidential candidates are attacking immigrants, these women are hoping their personal stories of sacrifice will refocus the immigration debate on the people whose lives it affects the most and shine a light on the reality that new immigrants face in the United States. The primary organizer of the walk was We Belong Together, whose co-chair, Andrea Cristina Mercado, said:

We believe that most people in the U.S. and around the world would choose to welcome migrants and refugees into our communities. We see people opening their hearts and homes every day. Through our pilgrimage, we will lift up the best of who we are together. The pope’s words have been a balm for us in a time still so filled with suffering. We look forward to welcoming him when he comes to D.C., as he encourages world leaders to reflect compassion in their actions.

Starting points for the trip each day are (see a full map):

  • 9/15 - York, Pa., starting at: 3400 Concord Road, York, Pa.
  • 9/16 - New Freedom, Pa., starting at: Heritage Trail County Park.
  • 9/17 - Monkton, Md., starting at: Campbell Road and Highway 45.
  • 9/18 - Lutherville and Timonium, Md., starting at: 1900 Monkton Road, Monkton, Md.
  • 9/19 - Baltimore starting at: 1021 Dulaney Valley Road, Baltimore, Md.
  • 9/20 - Jessup, Md., starting at: 12 W. Franklin St., Baltimore, Md.
  • 9/21 - Silver Spring, Md., starting at: 7250 Washington Blvd., Elkridge, Md.
  • 9/22 - Washington, D.C., starting at: 1600 St. Camillus Dr., Silver Spring, Md.
  • 9/22 - Washington, D.C., 4 p.m. at the Basilica, 400 Michigan Ave., N.E., Washington, D.C.
  • 9/23 - Washington, D.C., pilgrimage on the Ellipse.

A brief look at some of the stories of the women participating in the march:

  • Ana Cañenguez is currently in deportation proceedings. She is wearing the same shoes she wore when she spent five days crossing the desert with her two children who she brought back from El Salvador several years ago.
  • Rosi Carrasco is an undocumented mother and leader for migrant rights who is excluded from deferred action herself, despite having lived in Chicago for more than 20 years. She has risked deportation multiple times while performing civil disobedience to advocate for humane immigration policy.  
  • Juana Flores is a former nun who prepared meals for Pope John Paul II. She came to the United States undocumented with her children in the 1990s and is now co-director of Mujeres Unidas y Activas in San Francisco, where she advocates for domestic workers and survivors of domestic violence.
  • Andrea Cristina Mercado, co-chair of the We Belong Together campaign, is leading efforts to win commonsense immigration policy that addresses the unique issues of women and children.
  • Pilar Molina's husband did a 19-day hunger strike in the York detention center where the pilgrimage is starting. She returned to church after her husband was detained. Molina has deferred action, and he is still in the process of applying for asylum, with his next court date in December. 
  • Monique Nguyen is from a family of Vietnamese refugees, all of whom, except her left, the country after the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment in recent years.
  • Ai-jen Poo is the director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and co-director of the Caring Across Generations campaign. She is a 2014 MacArthur fellow and was named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world for 2012. She also is the author of The Age of Dignity.
  • Rosario Reyes is an undocumented mother in Maryland who dreams of being able to reunite with her son in El Salvador who she hasn’t seen in 12 years.

You can follow along on Twitter at #100women100miles, #100mujeres100millas and @womenbelong.

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