The Long Journey for Immigration Reform

Last week, “approximately 140 people, ranging in age from 7 to 80 years old, walked various distances along the 30-mile road from Wilder to Meridian raising awareness for the number of families affected by a lack of immigration reform. Along the way walkers said they celebrated their struggle for citizenship in the presence of family, BOH6MT6CcAAfI3r.jpg_largefriends and the community.” (Boise Weekly) Idaho Community Action Network, ACLU of Idaho and Community Council of Idaho walked together as the Coalition for Immigrant Rights of Idaho on a journey from Walder, ID to Boise—specifically to the office of Republican Representative Raul Labrador.

Labrador, a member of the House Gang of Eight, has been vacillating between supporting a pathway to citizenship and more draconian measures by his fellow Republicans.

Culminating in the presentation of 3 gifts to Rep. Raul Labrador. “The first gifts were handmade butterflies to represent our seeking of a pathway to citizenship. Next was a petition of 1,006 names encouraging Congressman Labrador to vote ‘yes’ on immigration reform,” Bustamante said. “The final gift was a single painted butterfly decorated with the signatures of every man, woman, and child that took the 30 mile journey.”

Why the walk? Why the show in above 100 degree weather? “A Pilgrimage. Plain and simple. Thousands of undocumented immigrants have crossed the desert into the United States looking for a better life for their families. Just as they have done, we set forth knowing that the time was right to take this journey, to provide the political debate a sense of the spiritual; something recognized for thousands of years in hundreds of cultures.

“It was also enlightening to see the community come out and support us,” said [Krista] Bustamante. “People left work to walk with us; people who didn’t even know about the walk offered us food and water along the way.”(Boise Weekly)

Supporters from the Idaho Community Action Network and CIRI gathered on the steps of Meridian City Hall Wednesday afternoon for a prayer service and rally. Only five representatives were granted access (inside City Hall) to the office of Idaho Republican Rep. Raul Labrador. The representatives said they offered three messages in the form of gifts to Labrador’s staff.

What began with a kickoff in Walder, with that town’s mayor speaking out and supporting comprehensive immigration reform; continued down the road toward Boise. Sometimes with hundreds of cars whizzing past, some honking in support—and other times quiet and retrospective, with only the sound of feet on gravel. Also powerful—the radio stations- commercial and public were behind the walk—pushing the story, telling the masses. Using the public airwaves to lay the road in front of us.

Participants were welcomed for the night at both Our Lady of the Valley and Gray’s Episcopal Church, and most surprising and inspiring on the last leg of the walk—were dozens of small business owners standing on the route handing people water and food.

The moment we knew that this movement has the moral strength to win and to reform such a broken immigration system came in the Labrador’s office – was when his staffer, who stood waiting to deny us access to the office except for a handful of the participants. A typically confrontational stance began to melt away as we calmly presented the story of the last three days. The staffer softened and we again became human in his eyes.

With the debate stalled by Republicans in the House, we will need to hold firm on our commitment to comprehensive immigration reform—and connect with people as people, giving them less and less reason to find an excuse to dehumanize the issue.