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On the Bus for Immigrant Rights

Mission Loc@l, News Report , Rigoberto Hernandez Posted: Mar 19, 2010

Mission Loc@l reporter Rigo Hernandez will be feeding news briefs on the road to the national March For America Campaign. The bus left San Francisco Wednesday and will join others from across the country on March 21 at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Their aim is to to ask Congress to pass immigration reform.

Having to watch peoples round the clock behavior in a bus headed to Washington, D.C. has given me insight into who these immigration activists are, the lives they lead in the Bay Area, and their reasons for making this cross country journey.

Take Esperanza (not her real name) from the Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Actions, who is making phone calls to encourage participation in the in San Francisco marches on March 21 and 24.

She has made 10 calls since she got on the bus Wednesday and 50 since she began organizing three weeks ago. Many were asked to do this but she seems to be only one making progress.

If I stayed quiet it would affect my kids, she says.

Her approach is working. Her daughter, the first person in her family to go to college, is about to finish her second year at UC Berkeley with a 3.3 GPA.

Even though Esperanza never finished middle school and her husband never made it past elementary school, she says her daughter succeeded because she has always been an involved parent. She started meeting with her daughters teachers in kindergarten and kept on through high school.

I even wanted to meet with her university teachers, she said. Her daughter refused.

Esperanza and her husband lived by the most fundamental American values: working hard for 25 years, investing in property and are giving their two kids everything they lacked growing up. This often meant working more than one job. No, matter, they managed.

Then, on the first day of her daughters senior year of high school, immigration arrested her husband at work for being undocumented, she said.

They paid $10,000 to bail him out and have spent more than $30,000 to defend his case in court, she said.

In 2008 the judge ruled in favor of her husband and said, This country needs more people like him.

Immigration then appealed the case and won, citing that he did not have, extreme or unusual circumstances.

Then what do you call this suffering? she asks with tears in her eyes.

Just last week her husband received his deportation letter. The idea of having to pay off mortgages and raise her 12-year-old son alone is daunting, she says.

At Thursdays night rally in Denver, Esperanza again shares her story with a crowded audience.

In the bus they asked me to write up my testimony, she says. I dont have to write it because, sadly, my situation is burned inside my mind and I wish I could forget it.

Nevertheless she is trying to keep her familys spirits up, who except for her daughter are riding the bus to Washington D.C. Her daughter will fly there tomorrow night to give her testimony at the National Mall in front of an estimated 100,000 on Sunday March 21.

Religion and Immigration Reform

Religion is a big part of this trip. At every city stop religious figures greet us and give us their blessings. Every few hours people sing Christian songs and pray.

And even though some secular groups are organizing buses to D.C., it is not surprising given that the PICO Network, which organized the bay area bus to Washington, is a faith based organization.

Still, how do Religion and Immigration reform connect?

I ask Leticia, from Church of the Epiphany in the Excelsior and one of the most religiously active people in the bus.

Its very simple, she says. The bible tells us that we have to treat everyone the same.

Soon after this conversation the subject comes up again when Eddy, one of the PICO organizers asks who was Catholic. Half a dozen riders raise their hand.

A passenger, from San Francisco, chimes in.

I wish we had more people from other religions because that is why I love this organizations, she says.

Javier Torres says religion gives him strength to continue on and is not afraid to show it.

In the drive from Salt Lake City to Denver he leads a 20-minute prayer, the longest of the trip so far.

When he leads the Spanish speaking prayer in the rally at Denver he says he really got into it because only minutes before he had found a friend he hadnt seen in over 20 years.

Related Articles:

Barrios Fired Up for Sundays Immigration March

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