“It was a great experience going to Washington, D.C.,” said Sandra Zamorano of Pacoima. And Zamorano believes she, a group of pro-immigrant activists, and kids born to undocumented parents who went with her to see Pope Francis in the nation’s capital, got their message across to the Pontiff.
Especially after Sophie Cruz, one of the members of that group, was picked out of the crowd by the pope as he headed to Congress to deliver a speech. The little girl was able to pass a letter to Francis, asking him to intercede on behalf of those who live in the country without documentation — including her undocumented parents.
“It was worth it. All our hard work paid off,” said Zamorano, who is married to a Mexican facing deportation proceedings. Zamorano’s parents are also undocumented.
She and several minors headed to Washington, D.C. last week along with activists from pro-immigrant group Hermandad Mexicana of Panorama City, hoping to ask the Pontiff for help in convincing U.S. government representatives to approve an immigration reform.
They believe the pope did take that message to heart.
“When he spoke (in Congress) we were touched by his words,” Zamorano said.
She was present inside the Chamber when the Pontiff spoke to a joint session of Congress, urging lawmakers to treat immigrants in “humane and just” ways.
“In recent centuries, millions of people came to this land to pursue their dream of building a future in freedom,” Francis told hundreds of lawmakers, cabinet members and U.S. Supreme Court justices in a packed joint session of Congress.
“We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners,” added Francis, who was born in Argentina to Italian parents. “I say this to you as the son of immigrants, knowing that so many of you are also descended from immigrants.”
Zamorano said the pope’s words “were felt by all” and she’s already seen their impact.
“It surprised me that (John) Boehner resigned the next day. I don’t think it’s just a coincidence,” she said. “That gives us hope because he was the leader (of the faction that defeated immigration reform in the past).”
Still, Zamorano said, they’re not just waiting to see if there will me more action toward immigration reform as a result of the pope’s visit.
Next March, the courts will once again deliberate over DAPA and the extension of DACA, two measures pushed by President Obama to protect undocumented parents of U.S.-born children, and also for those who came to the country when they were very young but remain in an immigration limbo.
Both measures haven’t taken effect after 26 states filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the President’s authority to approve them and, as they claim, change immigration law without having gone first through Congress.
“If nothing happens before then, we’re planning another trip to Washington, D.C. in March. We’re still going to keep fighting,” Zamorano said.