Marchers with the Pilgrimage of Hope walked through Lodi on Wednesday afternoon on their way to the Sacramento State Capitol. They plan to arrive in Sacramento on Monday for Day of the Immigrant.
The marchers began their trek northward on May 4 at St. James Episcopal Cathedral in Fresno.
The group has walked an estimated 180 miles from Fresno to Lodi, averaging 15 miles a day. By the time they reach Sacramento, they’ll have logged 226 miles.
Pilgrimage of Hope was organized by the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin to raise awareness about the plight of immigrants and refugees in the Valley, along with fundraising for a legal defense fund to help people facing deportation in federal immigration courts.
“We knew we had to make a statement, and so we followed in the way of Jesus and decided to walk to the State Capitol,” Bishop David Rice said.
Once the group reaches Sacramento, they plan to speak to state officials about existing and future immigration policies, as well as potential legislation.
“We do not presume positions. This isn’t about red or blue. We just want to hear and learn about current policies and the plans to amend policies,” Rice said.
The walk from Fresno to Sacramento symbolizes the journey immigrants make from regions of South America to North America, respite coordinator Anna Carmichael said.
“What we are doing is just a fraction of what immigrants do and deal with, except we have things like a respite van and places where we can rest at the end of our day,” she said. “There is a level of privilege we have due to the luxuries that we have access to while doing this.”
Carmichael had bronchitis during the first two days of the walk and took a leave of absence, only to come back to operate the respite van.
“Being able to leave and come back is exactly why I wanted to do this — because I got to go home and get better, but people who are making this journey from Guatemala or Honduras don’t get that treatment,” she said.
During their walk, the group has met several immigrants in the community who shared their stories of coming to America and why they try to gain U.S. citizenship.
“The system towards citizenship has caused the undocumented crisis,” Carmichael said. “I have met people who have been on waiting lists for citizenship for 32 years. In the time they have been waiting they have worked in the country and they can’t go back home. I have met mothers who have just been released form detentions only to find out they have been separated from their kids with no ability to locate them.”
As Carmichael has worked with migrant communities, she has learned harrowing details about life in the countries people flee. They all shared stories of horrific violence and a lack of opportunities, she said.
“People always say ask why (migrants) don’t just stay in their country and fix it, but we have to recognize the government corruption and the history of corruption in these countries and recognize the U.S.’s role in this issue,” Carmichael said.
Pilgrimage of Hope members say they are not politically driven.
Instead, they say, they are hoping to spotlight the existing crisis and provide perspective for people who don’t understand its magnitude.
Their message is about following their faith and standing with those immigrants most vulnerable, Rice said.
The pilgrimage has established a presence online with the help of Nelson Serrano, a priest from Colombia who manages their social media posts. They have posted photos and videos to Facebook to document their journey.
“With what has been happening in recent years, it has encouraged us and other groups to say enough is enough. We need to take responsibility and offer a hand. We say we walk because they walk — because when one person, hurts we all hurt,” Rice said.
The group will leave for Galt at 8 a.m. today. For more information or to donate, visit www.thepilgrimageofhope.org.