Why I walked 100 miles to meet Pope Francis

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By Ai-jen Poo

I’ve spent the last week on the road with 100 women and their families, walking 100 miles from York, PA to Washington, DC. We’re carrying messages of hope to welcome Pope Francis during his first visit to the U.S. and to echo his message of compassion, global cooperation, and dignity for all — including our nation’s immigrants.

Everyone on this pilgrimage has an incredible story of why they walked. To be reunited with their families, and live in peace from the constant fear of being pulled away from the people they love. To honor the work of sisters and brothers who are building roads and houses, mowing lawns and washing windows, and taking care of the most precious elements of our lives — our children and our aging loved ones.

I want to share just one story with you. Esmeralda is a cancer survivor, and she is walking for her husband and caregiver Jesús and her son. When she finished her latest treatment just a month ago, she could barely walk. But thanks to the devoted care from her husband in the weeks before our pilgrimage, she has been at the front of the group, pushing us all to go faster.

She says, “Both of them are the reasons why I’m here, because I want to make sure I always keep my family together. He’s my caretaker, he’s my strength, he’s my doctor, he’s everything to me. I have to stand up and be here, and do this walk for him. Because he deserves a better life.”

Click on the video above (or go here) to hear Ezzie’s story in her own words. 

Jesús is undocumented, and he’s just one of many undocumented immigrants who care for loved ones every day. And it’s not just families like Ezzie’s that are in desperate need of immigration relief — one out of every four of our nation’s professional caregivers is an immigrant, and many of them are undocumented. This issue touches so many of our families.

It’s been amazing to see the love and caregiving these 100 former strangers have demonstrated at every mile. From treating sore feet and blisters to providing a helping hand or a shoulder to lean on, we’ve cared for each other at every turn.

And we made it. On Tuesday, September 22, Ezzie and I, along with all of the courageous women marching with us, arrived in DC, just ahead of Pope Francis.

The Pope is a moral and global leader whose vision is one of universal love, where no one must live in the shadows, and everyone has dignity. We hope that our pilgrimage inspires Pope Francis to remind our Congress that human dignity is at the heart of any just immigration policy.

Help us spread this message by sharing Ezzie’s story on Facebook, Twitter, or by emailing it to your friends and family. 

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