By Pete Smith
“I haven’t seen my family in 14 years,” said a melancholy woman named Lupe Pimentel of Indianapolis.
She was one about 30 people who had gathered outside of U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks’ office on Meridian Street on a blustery afternoon Nov. 1 under the banner of Campaign for Citizenship.
The group had marched from Indianapolis in the hopes of encouraging the congresswoman to become an advocate for the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act – a bill that would offer a path to citizenship so that families like Pimenthal’s would not be separated on different sides of U.S. borders indefinitely.
“We’re just marching in support of the undocumented,” said Francisco Figueroa of the group of pilgrims gathered who eventually marched all the way to Brooks’ office in Anderson – about 48 miles – over the course of four days.
Along their route, the pilgrims stayed and prayed at different catholic churches that were key organizers of their political movement.
“Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin and the other Catholic bishops of the United States support an earned legalization program that would allow foreign nationals of good moral character who are living in the United States to adjust their status to obtain lawful permanent residence,” said Greg Otolski, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. “Such a program would create an eventual path to citizenship, requiring applicants to complete and pass background checks, pay a fine, and establish eligibility for resident status to participate in the program. Archbishop Tobin believes that such a program would especially promote family unity since it currently takes years for family members to be reunited through the family-based legal immigration system.”
The marchers said they secured an agreement from Brooks, a practicing Catholic herself, to attend a special caucus of Republicans who are working to move citizenship forward and to discuss immigration reform with the Archbishop of Indianapolis and the Bishop of Lafayette within the next two weeks.
Brooks said that the bill in the house is extremely new – it was read the day before the recent shutdown of the federal government began – and is likely to be divided up by different topics.
Brooks said, “I shared with the group on Monday that I am very practical.”
And the marchers viewed the journey as a success.
“It was amazing to see all the support. It was just a confirmation of the idea of Hoosier hospitality,” said marcher Isaías Guerrero. “I’m still sore, but it was very beautiful.”