"When I heard the message of the pope about the immigrants being treated with respect and dignity, I thought that this is something that we really want to come and see. Because I think that this country is not treating immigrants with the respect we deserve," Rosi Carrasco reportedly said.
Carrasco is a 55-year-old undocumented activist and mother of two who said she moved to Chicago from Mexico 21 years ago.
When the Pope addressed the White House today he spoke of immigration, "As the son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families," he said.
The 100 women 100 miles pilgrimage was sponsored by advocacy groups for immigrants and laborers including the We Belong Together campaign.
The women began their journey at a detention center in York, Pennsylvania on Sept. 15 and stopped along the way at churches and motels, making it into D.C. just in time to see Pope Francis.
"Our hope is really that our act of love and faith and sacrifice and the pope's words will touch hearts of Americans across the country to open their homes and communities to migrants and refugees, and make sure that we're treating them with compassion and not with cruelty," said Andrea Mercado, co-chairwoman of We Belong Together.
Several of the women participated in the long journey despite battling health problems. One woman, Esmeralda Dominguez, could hardly walk just two short months ago due to bone cancer and she was able to make the 100 mile trek.
"I know he's not going to be able to change the laws -- I have that very clear," Dominguez said. "But what I do know is that he does have the power when he speaks. When he speaks, he can transcend religions, he can transcend colors. He can move a nation. And he will move a mountain if he speaks to the mountain, that I know."
The pope’s acknowledgment of America’s being built by immigrants is significant and comes at a crucial time as we have GOP presidential candidates forgetting about the country’s roots and suggesting mass deportation, the building of enormous walls to block borders and other dehumanizing methods to stifle immigration rather than develop a democratic plan for reform.
This is also a time when race relations in the U.S. are tense and racism among citizens of different ethnic backgrounds is alarmingly prevalent.
"You remind us that 'the Lord’s most powerful message' is mercy," President Barack Obama said applauding the Pope’s commitment to refugees and immigrants. "That means welcoming the stranger with empathy and a truly open heart, from the refugee who flees war-torn lands to the immigrant who leaves home in search of a better life."