A group of locals is joining 100 migrant women as they set out on a 100-mile pilgrimage from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C. in hopes of attracting the support of Pope Francis during his visit to the nation’s capital this week.

With more than 100 attendees, El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos – a local grassroots effort that fights for Latino rights – organized a vigil in support of the four Albuquerque women who will be joining the march to amplify its message of justice, said Fabiola Bawden, one of the four women who will participate.

“The main message we’ll carry is that the present political sphere will not define our community,” she said.

Originally from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Bawden said she immigrated to New Mexico 10 years ago and is now a community organizer through El Centro.

“All migrants are human beings, and we deserve to be respected as such” she said.

By Isaac De Luna

Attendees hold candles at an immigrant vigil held thursday night in Albuquerque’s Barelas community.

Iliana Martinez is another of the women representing the state in the march. Originally from Mexico, she said she emigrated from her country as a survivor of domestic abuse. She now works for Encuentro, an organization that offers citizenship, teaching and finance classes to Latino immigrant families.

“We want dignity and respect,” she said. “It is time that the immigrant community realizes they have power, and it’s time to use it.”

State Rep. Javier Martinez, D-Albuquerque, said the Latino community will continue to thrive and change perspectives on the immigration debate, while also approving the current work of the immigrant community to push against xenophobia nationwide.

“Our vote will change the dynamics of politics in this country,” Martinez said during his keynote speech at the event. “Voting protects our society and country from those who try to harm it.”

The group of Albuquerque women will join the larger effort in Baltimore, Maryland on Sept. 29 to continue the journey to the nation’s capital. The vigil was carried out on coordination with the national campaign for Citizenship Day, a date on which eligible residents of the U.S. are encouraged to begin their naturalization process.

Isaac De Luna is a student in the Communication and Journalism Department.