The “Nuns on the Bus” is sponsored by NETWORK, a national Catholic social justice lobby. They have previously toured the nation seeking to raise awareness of several socio-political issues that impact Catholic teaching. This year they traveled across the United States to support immigration reform policies that ensure family unity and protect the rights of immigrant workers.
The group of sisters handed out postcards to the supporters, asking them to fill them out. The postcards, urging thier local congressional representatives to support comprehensive immigration reform, will then be mailed.
Before beginning their tour of local mobile home parks, the sisters taught the crowd a chant they have been using throughout their journey, “Raise your hands, raise your voices for comprehensive immigration reform, now.”
During their tour, they visited St. Anthony Trailer Park, a trailer park at Hwy 195 and Pierce Street known as “Duroville” that has since closed, a park on Avenue 77 and a park on Avenue 70. The sisters were escorted by Sister Carol Nolan, S.P., of the Providence in the Desert Ministry. Several Sisters of Providence and lay persons also joined in the tour.
“I am very happy for the people to come to my home,” said Celia Vargas, a resident of St. Anthony park.
Vargas was overwhelmed by the amount of people who came to show support and to visit her. The sisters escorted her to the bus, where they were able to talk. At the end of the visit, she presented the sisters with grapes as an offering of thanks.
“We have had absolutely incredible experiences and dealt with a variety of immigrants,” said Sr. Joan Persch, RSM, during the ride between mobile home parks. “I was surprised that in New Orleans, they struggle with immigrants. And yet it was the immigrants that managed to rebuild the city after the hurricane.”
At one of the mobile home parks the sisters learned how the farm workers are paid. Payment often depends on the crop or person. If the crop is good, they might be paid per basket, or they might be paid per hour. Sometimes the workers are quoted one wage but are given a lesser wage after they have finished the work. Fearing the police and ICE, the workers do not confront the employers.
When asked what she would gain from immigration reform, Lilian Salcedo said, “happiness and relief.”
“I have two children that are citizens, it makes me nervous that I might have to leave them,” Salcedo said. “Sometimes the border patrol is waiting down the street, waiting to stop someone and pick them up. They deport them right away.”
“If the police stop a car and see workers in the car, they just call border patrol to pick them up and have them deported so they won’t have to do any paperwork.”
The U.S. Senate has passed comprehensive immigration reform and attention now shifts to the House of Representatives in the campaign for reform.