El PASO -- Nuns on a cross-country road trip to promote immigration reform are nearing the end of their 6,500 mile journey.
The “Nuns on Bus” group reached California, the last of 15 states the women visited to mobilize public support for an immigration bill.
“That’s why I’m riding the bus,” said Pat Murphy, a Sister of Mercy from Chicago. She’s spent the past seven years visiting detention centers to pray for people who were being deported.
“We want family unification. We want people to have a path to citizenship, and this has to be done as soon as possible,” said Murphy.
The nuns have taken that message to nearly 40 cities since departing from Ellis Island on May 28Th. The bus campaign was organized by Network, which describes itself as a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby.
The nuns have been greeted by supporters, but also have encountered people who oppose their effort.
“They feel that the immigrants who came here should be punished,“ said Elaine Bentoncourt, a sister of St. Joseph from Hartford, Conn.
“This is not what America stands for, and as people of faith we want to treat our brothers and sisters as we would want to be treated,“ said Bentoncourt.
The nuns visited every border state, and in Texas, Arizona and California they heard from immigrants affected by current policies.
“I love this nation and I want to stay here with my family and all my friends,“ said Noemi Machado, an El Paso student and so called “dreamer”—an undocumented immigrant brought to the U.S. as a child.
The nuns said mass deportations have also affected U.S. citizens.
“We have 5000 children in foster care right now separated from their parents because their parents have been deported,” said sister Mary Ellen Lacy, a nun from Brooklyn.
In El Paso the nun’s appearance took on a pep rally quality. Sister Simone Campbell, the Nuns on a Bus organizer, led people in a cheer.
“Raise your hands! Raise voice for comprehensive immigration reform now!” the group chanted.
The nuns will end their long bus trip in San Francisco Tuesday. They plan to fly home and continue to push for immigration reform.
“We’re taking this message back to our Senators and to members of the House, “said Sister Simone.