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As Congress moves forward with immigration reform, we take a look at how this issue connects to culture, business and families in the Northwest.Our region is home to a unique blend of immigrants who work in all parts of our economy — from high-tech to agriculture. This population already has a deeply-rooted history here. And its ranks are expanding rapidly.Proposals for comprehensive immigration reform address border security, employment verification, guest-worker programs and pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the US.

These Seattle Immigrants Have A Message For Pope Francis

Irene Velazquez, Araceli Hernandez and Angela Escoz prepare for a 100-mile pilgrimage to greet Pope Francis.
Liz Jones/KUOW
Irene Velazquez, Araceli Hernandez and Angela Escoz prepare for a 100-mile pilgrimage to greet Pope Francis.

There’s a name Angela Escoz of Seattle refuses to utter: Donald Trump.

"It’s incredible the control this guy has over people and the media and the barbaric things he says every day against immigrants,” Escoz said. She’s an immigrant from Peru.

That’s why she is making a 100-mile pilgrimage on foot from Maryland to Washington, D.C., to see Pope Francis. She believes the pope offers a powerful counterpoint to the anti-immigration views she hears from Trump and other Republican presidential candidates.

Escoz said she’s fired up for this pilgrimage. She bought new shoes for the big walk. “They’re brand new,” she said. “I got to break ’em in.”

Escoz will walk with three other women she met at Casa Latina, a nonprofit in Seattle. She’s hopeful this walk of 100 women, for 100 miles, gets his attention. The walk was organized by several national advocacy groups.

The women are set to arrive in D.C. on the same day the pope starts his U.S. visit.

Another walker, Irene Velazquez, wants to share her story with him. It’s a story she says many immigrant women share. “A lot of mothers have their kids like this, far away. And it’s not what they want,” Velazquez said.

Velazquez left her children in Mexico eight years ago. She cleans houses here to help pay for their school. “It hurts inside,” she said. “You’re always crying.”

She wants the pope to support immigration reform, so she can have a legal way to work in the U.S. and travel across the border. “I’d ask him to ask God for everything to turn out OK," she said.

The pope's handlers say he’s visiting as a pastor, not a politician. But he is expected to address this controversial topic of immigration reform during his time here.

Araceli Hernandez, a staffer at Casa Latina who is also participating in the walk, said she’s never done an extensive trek like this. She’s nervous about walking 10 to 13 miles a day in hot, humid weather but says “she’ll walk from her heart.” 

“I will remember all the people who’ve been walking in the desert,” she said. “This is something that will inspire me when I feel very tired, in the sun.”

She’s referring to the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., including many who walk for days or weeks as they cross the U.S.-Mexico border. “It’s just a little taste of that,” she said.

“There’s a lot of tears here,” Escoz said. “A lot of injustice. It makes me indignant. It’s not fair.”

She said she’s got her message for the pope ready. “Please help us. We need you, with all your heart. You have influence. You’re a good man. That’s why God chose you to give a message to humanity. This is the time to do it.”

Year started with KUOW: 2006