This three letter word caused a church full of emotional people to roar for Congressman Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) as he answered the question, “Do you support an earned pathway to citizenship?”
Seven hundred supporters of immigration reform packed the house at Sacred Heart Church in Patterson Friday night, as they gathered to engage in a community forum to urge Congress to take action on immigration reform.
Denham, who was invited as a guest speaker, displayed a sense of urgency when he spoke about the matter to the sea of attendees.
“The time to fix immigration is now,” proclaimed Denham. “No excuses. No delays, we have to get it done now.”
The event was by hosted PICO, a faith based organization that helps communities work to solve social problems. This particular event was part of a project called “Campaign for Citizenship,” that aims to represent immigrants and people of faith who are seeking citizenship.
Seated in front of the church were 11 individuals, who on Monday began walking to Patterson 285 miles from the State Capital to represent the 11 million illegal immigrants attempting to gain a pathway to citizenship.
Adriana Flores, a resident of Merced, said her decision to walk was a means to combat a fear of being deported. A fear she believes looms over every aspect of her life.
“I never know if I will return to my house with my car or if my family will be separated,” said Flores. “For 20 years I’ve been living in fear without a chance, and that’s why I decided to fight for change.”
Students, community members and clergymen all shared their testimonials on Friday night.
Gema Medina, a student at California State University, Stanislaus, stated that although her dream of going to college has become a reality, the fear that she will lose her parents to deportation is something that haunts her every day.
“Coming to this country with my parents was the American dream. I was only four years old and our families were separated as we crossed the border,” said an emotional Medina.
Medina urged Denham and the rest of Congress to take action on immigration, saying the country was founded on the principles of immigration.
“As you all know, this country was founded by immigrants,” said Medina. “America's values are based on family.”
Despite the emotional responses and glistening cheeks, the night ended in song and celebration.
The next Pilgrimage for Pathway Citizenship event will be held at 6 p.m. today at St. Jude's Church, 3824 Mitchell Rd., in Ceres.