Bundled up against the chilly, rainy weather, Maria Consuelo made the trek for her son Sunday afternoon.
The Gainesville man was deported seven months ago after an arrest involving a friend in an incident with an open container, Consuelo said, speaking through an interpreter.
At the time, he had some medical issues, having gone through surgery at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. Those problems haven’t gone away and today, “he’s doing poorly and wants to come here for surgery,” his mother said.
Consuelo joined about 200 others in the second annual 2010 Holy Week Interfaith Pilgrimage for Immigrants, an event meant to support immigrants and call for improvement in immigration laws.
Organizers are seeking “a process for all immigrant workers and their families already in the U.S. to earn citizenship upon satisfaction of specific criteria,” according to a news release issued last week.
They also want “an expansion of legal avenues for workers and families to enter our country and work in a safe and legal manner with their rights and due process fully protected, enforcement initiatives that are consistent with humanitarian values and solutions to address the root causes of migration.”
Numerous religious groups are sponsoring the event, including St. Michael Catholic Church in Gainesville.
Sunday’s march began at the Catholic church’s new pastoral center on Shallowford Road in Gainesville. Because of blustery weather, the event was to end on Atlanta Highway in Gainesville, instead of Gainesville State College in Oakwood.
Participants lined up in the parking lot outside the church after a Palm Sunday Mass that drew a capacity crowd.
Father Fabio Sotelo, St. Michael’s pastor, spoke briefly to the crowd and led the group in prayer before the event.
Then, several people carrying a wooden cross and others holding a banner that read “Pilgrimage for Immigrants” led the group as it streamed out of the parking lot, headed toward the North Georgia Detention Center, operated by Corrections Corporation of America.
One of those holding the cross was Lois Wolfe of Saint Philip Benizi Catholic Church in Jonesboro.
“We’re coming to show solidarity with the community,” she said. “... The more we find out about the plight of immigrants, the more we hope that our legislators will pay attention and do something to help.”
Participants plan to journey through immigrant communities and places where organizers say immigrants unjustly suffer.
The group will wind its way to Lawrenceville, Duluth, Lilburn, Dalton, Cartersville, Smyrna and Marietta before ending in Atlanta on April 2.