POPE IN AMERICA – Why Undocumented Filipinos Endured 100-Mile Walk to Meet Pope Francis

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POPE FRANCIS is greeted by US President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle and their children upon arrival in Washington. (Official White House Photo)
By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA

 

WASHINGTON (JGL) – One of the Filipino American women who joined the 100-mile walk along with 100 women to meet Pope Francis in Washington, D.C. said she took the “step in the name of one of our 300,000 kababayans (fellow expatriates) who continue to live without recognition and dignity from this country that we all have served as a nation.”
Myrla Baldonado, 60, who was honored as one of the “Champions of Change” at the White House two years ago, said, “I decided to join the walk to join a powerful group of women in a pilgrimage that seeks the intercession of a very responsive Pope to the people’s lament and voices.
“I have walked and each step I made is a step in the name of one of our 300,000 kababayans who continue to live without recognition and dignity from this country that we all have served as a nation. 
“I have flown and walked many miles to this point. I was one of the domestic workers who articulated the inclusion of domestic workers to the drafters of the Immigration Reform Bill a couple of years back. I was deeply saddened with the Bill not moving.
“The Pope’s coming gave me a lot of hope that he will become the voice for a just, humane and immigration reform as he has been to many marginalized around the world.”
Terry Villasenor, a caregiver, said when asked why she joined the 100-mile walk, “It’s the greatest opportunity for me to break the fear and come out into the open, to express my bravery by walking with 100 women so that our voices can be heard.
“My intention is to convey a message that it’s about time for changes. It’s about time for Immigration Reform. It’s been a while. Women have suffered enough. The separation from the family! The children got traumatized. A lot out there are still living in the shadow of darkness.  We are 11 million undocumented and we are not afraid because I believe the United States of America needs people like us, hard workers, like us, skilled people, like us.
 
“EXPRESS OUR RIGHTS AS HUMAN BEINGS”
 
“We would like to express our rights as human beings with dignity passion and a call for inclusion.”
Joy Santos said, “I came to the pilgrimage to send the message to Pope Francis. I represent myself as a mother of an American citizen child and all of the more than 300,000 undocumented immigrant Filipinos in the US.
“I’ve been living in the US for 14 years now separated from my child because of this immigration problem. I am hoping that someday we will become legal here in the US.”
The 100 women, including undocumented Filipino women, from different organizations, started the marathon walk last Sept. 15 from York, Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C. to coincide with the arrival of the Pope in D.C. on Wednesday (Sept. 23) where he met with President Obama and will speak before the joint session of the U.S. Congress Thursday.
The women, who have husbands detained for immigration violations, hope that U.S. Congress, where there is a pending immigration reform bill at the House of Representatives that was already passed by the U.S. Senate, will finally relent to pass the bill if the Pope tells them to do so when he speaks before Congress just as Cuba pardoned 3,500 prisoners prior to his arrival in Cuba.

Ai-Jen Poo, Executive Director, National Domestic Workers Alliance and Co-Director, Caring Across Generations, told Domestic Rights bill lobbyists on board a bus en route to Chicago, Illinois Wednesday (Sept. 9) that a 100-women, 100-mile walk will kick off a few days (Sept. 15) before the arrival of Pope Francis to welcome the Pope to send a message to “President Obama as well as world leaders of the United Nations to call upon him to raise the issue of undocumented immigrants and to really push our leaders here in the U.S. to move forward with immigration policies so that the 11-Million, who are living trapped in the shadow, be a full part of this democracy.”

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