The Pilgrimage for a Pathway to Citizenship is composed of a group of 11 people making a 285-mile foot trek from Sacramento to Bakersfield. Each one represents the 11 million undocumented residents of the United States sponsored by PICO, a statewide faith-based organizing effort to unite 450 congregations to work on issues for low income and working class families in California. PICO sponsors the Campaign for Citizenship, representing immigrant families and people of faith working together to win citizenship for the 11 million undocumented U.S. residents.
The hour-long event advocated for citizenship of undocumented immigrants and served as a pep-rally for the cause.
Mayor Luis Molina spoke early in the event and made his stance known.
“I want to see not only immigration reform, but a pathway to citizenship,” he said.
Impassioned pleas came from several undocumented students whose parents brought them to the United States illegally when then were children.
Adriana Hernandez, 26, of Patterson, a recent Masters Degree graduate from the University of San Francisco spoke of her parents bringing her to the United States from Mexico when she was two years old. She said she distinctly remembered as a child wanting her father back for Christmas who had been deported when she was five.
Hernandez became a U.S. citizen two years ago.
“A pathway to citizenship is not a political game,” Hernandez told Denham pointedly as she addressed the crowd of hundreds. “Hard working people who contribute to the economy aspire to no longer be treated as second class citizens.”
Anna Ventura, a pre-med student at California State University, Stanislaus said her undocumented parents were being punished for seeking a better life.
“I fear my parents could be taken from me at any time,” she said as she looked toward Denham. “Put yourself in my shoes and do what is right.”
Denham, for his part, called for bipartisan immigration reform and pledged to work for a pathway for the 11 million undocumented residents to obtain citizenship.
“It is time to build a long term solution to this problem,” he said, noting that it had been kicked down the line for some 30 years. “It is time to get this thing fixed.”
When asked point blank by several of the people who gave testimonies whether he supported a pathway to citizenship Denham didn’t waiver.
“I have and I will,” he said.
Denham, who has Hispanic family members, said later outside the event that the issue was personal.
“I want a fix for this and get it right,” he said.
• Contact Nick Rappley at 892-6187, ext. 31 or firstname.lastname@example.org.