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Walk from Indy to Anderson planned to draw attention to immigration issues

November 1, 2013 | The Indianapolis Star | Link to Article

Walk from Indy to Anderson planned to draw attention to immigration issues

They are from Mexico, Nicaragua, Columbia, Kenya and the United States.

All live in Indianapolis — some legally, some not.

This morning, the group of 15 to 20 people plan to kick off a four-day walk from Indianapolis to Anderson to draw attention to the issue of immigration reform.

They want Congress to schedule a vote on House Resolution 15, legislation that would put undocumented immigrants on a pathway to citizenship. They say the resolution would grant immigrants legal status while completing the process.

“We will be walking the whole time, seven hours a day, to draw attention to this,” said Isaias Guerrero, the group’s spokesman and coordinator of the Justice for Immigrants campaign for the Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

The bill has stalled in Congress, prompting activists around the country to hold marches, sit-ins and other high-visibility events in an effort to reignite debate. Last month, eight Democratic members of Congress joined activists in Washington in a protest on the National Mall that resulted in more than 200 people getting arrested.

The legislation would affect more than 3,000 young Hoosiers and more than 11 million immigrants living illegally in the United States. Eighty-one percent of those 11 million were born in Latin America, according to the Pew Research Hispanic Center.

The Indianapolis group started it pilgrimage this morning by attending mass at St. Monica Catholic Church at Michigan Road on the Northwestside. Afterward, they received a blessing from the church’s pastor, Fr. Todd Goodson.

“We are all created in the image and likeness of God,” Fr. Goodson said afterward. “Immigrants should have the same rights as everyone else -- to be able to live and work and raise families.”

Bebe Martinez, 17, a senior at Indianapolis Lighthouse Academy, was born in Mexico and came to the U.S. at age seven with her mother, but without documentation. She said she has good grades and wants to go to college and study biology. But without U.S. citizenship, she is not be eligible for scholarships or in-state tuition.

“I’ve been living here for 10 years and I’m still trying to live the American dream,” Martinez said.

Another member of the group, Nikki Shaffstall, is an American citizen who works as an accountant for a small technology firm. Her best friend, she said, is an undocumented immigrant. Shaffstall hopes to help raise awareness in support of immigration reform.

“The United States was built by immigrants,” said Shaffstall, who lives in Indianapolis. “Today, the system is broken and we need to help repair it.”

One of their goals is to sell their case to U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Carmel. Many of the walk’s supporters live in her district.

Brooks does not support the immigration reform, but favors a “piecemeal approach” that addresses various aspects of immigration separately, spokesman Alex Damron said.

“She will always keep in mind the concerns of constituents who feel passionately about issues important in their lives,” Damron said.

The group plans to visit Brooks’ district office in Carmel this afternoon and another district office in Anderson on Monday afternoon.

The group says it is supported by numerous faith groups, including the Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis, the Diocese of Lafayette and the Indianapolis Congregation Action Network, a social-action umbrella group of more than 20 churches.