December 30, 2013 — Rather than wait on the sidelines and simply hope that politicians act on immigration reform, Jesuit scholastic Ben Anderson and 75 clergy, faith leaders and immigrant families hit the streets and made a six-day Pilgrimage for Citizenship in the Twin Cities last month.
Anderson, who is currently working as a community organizer with ISAIAH, a faith-based organization in St. Paul, Minn., helped coordinate the 36-mile walk that included stops at six churches and ended at Congressman Erik Paulsen’s (R-Minn.) office.
“God made each day easier as pilgrims shared their stories, gained support at churches and were blessed with renewed determination,” Anderson wrote in a reflection. Catholic Charities, ISAIAH and more than 15 congregations representing five denominations supported the pilgrimage.
The pilgrims shared stories of how families had been torn apart due to the current immigration system. "Everyone deserves full dignity and everyone deserves to live and raise their families without fear, and we need to provide that by creating a pathway to citizenship," Anderson told a local TV news station.
An immigrant named Ivan, 19, told the group, “Every day I fear coming home and finding them gone. I cannot imagine what it would be like to suddenly find my parents deported, leaving me to care for my two younger brothers. This kind of thing happens in my community. We need citizenship now.”
“Citizenship is necessary not only to stop the tremendous suffering caused by our broken immigration laws but also to give a democratic voice to 11 million aspiring voters in our community,” Anderson wrote.
The pilgrimage ended with the group celebrating Mass in the parking lot of Rep. Paulsen’s office. A smaller group then prayed the rosary inside the office building after requesting to speak with Rep. Paulsen in order to ask him to support a pathway to citizenship.
“We planned to remain in the office until he met with us,” Anderson wrote. However, the police were summoned and the group was forced to leave. “We left in prayer, unable to risk more deportations and broken families,” Anderson wrote.
“When I look into the eyes of these pilgrims and witness their sacrifice for the common good, I see a bright future for our churches and for our country,” Anderson wrote. “There is a moral crisis, and these immigrants have the determination and courage to transform it. Members of Congress, and many of us who are citizens, have something to learn from these pilgrims. We need to follow their lead, face this moral crisis and work together to pass a pathway to citizenship this year.” [Source: MinnPost, ISAIAH]