Philly immigrants praise Pope Francis' immigration address
There was more than one line from Pope Francis’ address at Independence Mall on Saturday that really struck a chord with the city's diverse immigrant communities.
“All too often, those most in need of our help are unable to be heard. You are their voice, and many of you have faithfully made their cry heard,” he said.
His speech overflowed with similar lines of affirmation, like this one:
Among the 40,000 people in the audience were 100 members of the New Sanctuary Movement, an interfaith immigrant justice organization in Philadelphia.
“I love that he said that we shouldn’t be ashamed of where we come from. I hope that the visit from the Pope will touch the hearts of politicians,” said Estela, a New Sanctuary member originally from Mexico and a member of the local Visitation BVM Parish.
New Sanctuary has been advocating for immigrants of all stripes in the city, regardless of their status. The group’s successful lobbying efforts include helping to end Philadelphia’s deportation program with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and leaders are currently promoting legislation that would allow undocumented Pennsylvanians to get driver’s licenses
Some members of New Sanctuary Movement did not want to use their last names for personal reasons. Nonetheless they wanted to offer their gratitude for the Pope’s words on immigration.
“The Pope said he chose [Independence Hall] because this is where liberty was proclaimed and that we as immigrants shouldn’t lose that memory, we must continue to liberate new Americans that are arriving here,” said Maria from the Dominican Republic, who attends the local Holy Innocents Parish in Hunting Park.
New Sanctuary leader Alejandra Mota was the only undocumented Latina to speak publicly at one of the papal events, where she addressed the struggles of immigrants like Lissis, a Philadelphian from the Dominican Republic whose partner is undocumented.
“I’m hopeful that there will be change. I feel protected. Even though I’m not an undocumented immigrant, my partner is. I would like authorities and politician in this country to support immigrants just like the Pope said they should,” Lissis said.
Another New Sanctuary member, Angela Navarro, sang in the choir of at Sunday’s papal mass. Navarro was the Catholic Honduran mother who fought a deportation order by living in a local church. She beat the case after 58 days, thanks to a campaign effort on behalf of New Sanctuary Movement.