I had the privilege of joining and supporting El Camino Del Inmigrante, an 11-day, 150-mile pilgrimage from the Tijuana border to the Los Angeles Detention Center. It was organized by the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) to lift up the stories of our immigrant brothers and sisters, and to remember the lives that have been lost while attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.
I was able to join the Camino for one day, walking 16 miles from The Crossing Church in Costa Mesa to Seal Beach United Methodist Church. My body ached and my feet hurt like they’ve never hurt before. The spiritual and emotional pain caused by feeling the brokenness of the immigration system was overwhelming.
I felt so much respect for the 170 faith and community leaders from across the country who participated in the Camino. By the time I joined them, the 60 who walked from start to finish were on their eighth day of this journey, and many had bandages and blisters on their feet. A few days later, when I helped to bring them breakfast, they were incredibly still going strong: tired, but persistently faithful. Finally, at Tuesday's rally, they lifted up crosses and prayers to those on the other side of the detention center walls, who knocked and flashed lights at the narrow windows in response.
This journey was just a tiny glimpse of what many immigrants experience, traveling from much farther than Tijuana. Often times they are pushed out of their homelands to escape poverty, violence, and lack of opportunities. They hold strong to their faith with the hope of making it to the other side. Yet 1/3 of undocumented immigrants lose their lives on this journey, many times from heat stroke and dehydration.
These incredible people of faith served as prophetic witness to the struggle of our immigrant brothers and sisters. I hope and believe that El Camino will result in a strong call to action for policy change and a new culture of empathy toward immigrants travelling north from the US-Mexico Border.