The Iowa Freedom Pilgrimage traveled through various cities in the state of Iowa August 19 through the 23. In every city the Asamblea de los Derechos Civiles, the Minnesota based group that organized this pilgrimage, was received with support from various religious and human and civil rights groups that share their same objective – that US legislators would approve once and for all a comprehensive immigration reform.
Their first stop was the city of Decorah, Iowa where the participants of the pilgrimage were received by Pedro Lopez and Mike Reyes, LULAC Iowa state director, together they headed to Postville. Pedro Lopez’ family lives in Postville, where the pilgrimage participants found what they called an “atmosphere of despair.” In Postville they went to the processing plant that was the subject of the biggest immigration raid in United States history. There they took some time to reflect about what happened there in 2008.
Later that day there were welcomed by Father Rudy Juarez from St. Patrick’s Church in Iowa City. There they had a demonstration in the downtown area and they were joined by other groups that symphonize with their mission and that night they dined at St. Patrick’s Church and had time for a spiritual reflection and sang hymns.
The second day started in Iowa City from there they traveled to Waterloo, Iowa that same afternoon they headed out to Davenport where LULAC Davenport members welcomed them, along with QC Interfaith and representatives of various media including HolaIowa.com.
The march in Davenport came to an end on the corner of 2nd Street and Harrison, afoot a bronze statue in honor of the Irish immigrants. The bronze statue is a live size one and it is of a father and mother with their child and it symbolizes the hardships of their trek toward a better life in America after the Irish Famine.
Antonia Alvarez is a Mexican immigrant that has been living in United States for 14 years and she was one of the leaders of this group and one of the speakers.
“The United States have an opportunity to become a true example for the whole world if they would “free” our community we would be a country that respects and shows dignity to the immigrants of this nation and a good example to all other nations and the whole world to follow,” Antonia commented.
Right after the march the group reunited in the LULAC center for a friendly dinner before resting so they could go on with their trip to Des Moines. There they would receive a blessing by bishop Richard Pates to prepare them for a weekend were they would participate in protests, processions and vigils during the different presidential candidates’ events at the Iowa State Fair.
It was there during those events that they also exercised their activism. They protested during the events of the presidential candidates Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal and Ted Cruz. At the Cruz event they were escorted out of the event while you could hear Cruz saying over the microphone the he “appreciates each of these individuals” but did nothing to engage them.
After a week of constant activism la Asamblea de Derechos Civiles returned home. They are thankful for the support they received in Iowa.
“During all our actions of the pilgrimage we found solidarity from the churches and organizations of the state of Iowa,” Antonia told us.
“Citizenship now for all the immigrants that live in the shadows and the uncertainty of our destinies,”
Photos by Tar Macias