Organizers of a nearly 400-mile walk to highlight immigration policy in the United States say the timing has worked out well.
The Trail for Humanity will kick off from Merced about 10 a.m. Tuesday from Sacred Heart Church, 519 W. 12th St., where 11 mothers representing 11 million undocumented workers in this country will begin their trek to the U.S.-Mexico border.
The mothers will be accompanied by other marchers to make up a party of about 23, said Trail founder Valeska Castaneda. The mother of an 8-year-old girl, Castaneda said she began planning Trail in March.
“It really took (on) a life of its own as of this month,” the 27-year-old UC Berkeley student said. “It all aligned itself, and it really exploded.”
A surge of Central American children crossing into the United States has prompted controversy in parts of California. Hundreds of demonstrators recently blocked buses trying to move detainees into a facility in Murrieta, drawing national headlines.
California is not the only state seeing an influx of immigrants. Texas is also a common destination.
More than 57,000 unaccompanied children have been apprehended since October, the Border Patrol says. Three-fourths of them are from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador and say they are fleeing pervasive gang violence and crushing poverty.
President Barack Obama has asked Congress to authorize $3.7 billion in emergency spending to increase enforcement at the border, build more facilities to temporarily house the unaccompanied minors and beef up legal aid.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest has said the government will use due process to handle each case but will not guarantee a “welcome to this country with open arms.”
The images of unaccompanied children held in facilities struck a chord with many of the marchers leaving Merced, Castaneda said. “We’re all mothers, and we thought of our children,” she said. “That could be our child. The only thing separating us is where we’re born.”
The trekkers plan to walk about 15 miles every day, with 19 stops along the way. Organizers expect to pick up more marchers as they head south. Their destination is Friendship Park, San Diego, a historic meeting place on the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the park’s website.
Though the plight of immigrant women and children is at the forefront, Castaneda said, the march will serve to highlight a number of other causes. Many of the participants in the cities along the trail have causes they would like to push, she said.
Jesse Ornelas, minister of defense for the local chapter of National Brown Berets, said his organization will take part in the march through its first leg to Chowchilla. His group also organized today’s send-off in Merced.
Ornelas said the march should be a reminder of the “need for humanity in the world” when dealing with undocumented children entering the United States.
The next legs of the march will stop in Chowchilla, Madera and Fresno.
For more on Trail for Humanity, go to www.trailforhumanity.org.