Arizona Immigrant Families Moved By Pope's Speech: 'Gave Me Hope'

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By Griselda Nevarez

PHOENIX, AZ -- Magdalena Rendon, an undocumented mother living in Arizona, woke up early on Thursday hoping to hear Pope Francis talk about immigration in his address to Congress. She, along with several others who gathered at 7 a.m. in Phoenix to watch the pope’s speech, weren’t disappointed.

“He gave me a lot of hope,” said Rendon said after hearing the pope speak. “I feel that he came to advocate for us and to try to soften the hearts of politicians.”

In his speech before Congress, Pope Francis urged compassion for immigrants and reminded Americans that many of them “were once foreigners.” He also made a connection between the undocumented immigrants who come to the United States and the refugees who are fleeing Syria.

In Phoenix, Arizona, families and immigration activitists gathered early on Thursday in Phoenix to hear Pope Francis talk about immigration in his address to Congress.Griselda Nevarez

“On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities,” said the pope, a son of immigrants himself. “Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation.”

The pope’s words touched Lizette Zamudio, a 19-year-old from Mexico. She is authorized to stay and work in the U.S. under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but her parents are undocumented.

Nineteen-year-old Lizette Zamudio (left) was among several people who gathered in Phoenix on Thursday to watch Pope Francis address Congress.Griselda Nevarez

Zamudio said she has done everything from participating in marches and protests to helping organize vigils outside the offices of Congress members in an effort to advocate for an immigration reform that would lead to a path to citizenship for her and her family.

“I feel like we’ve tried everything,” she said. “I’m hoping members of Congress really take the pope’s message into consideration.”

Twenty-three-year-old Raquel Denis (right) woke up early on Thursday to join a group of people who gathered in Phoenix to watch Pope Francis speak to Congress.Griselda Nevarez

Raquel Terán, the Arizona director for Mi Familia Vota, said she is also hoping Congress members will listen to the pope’s message on immigration and “bring back civility” to the immigration debate.

“We know there has to be a debate on immigration—nobody denies that,” she said. “But we need to bring back civility to that, and I think that’s what he brought.”

Several people, including Raquel Teran of Mi Familia Vota, right, became emotional while hearing Pope Francis speak about immigration in his speech to Congress on Thursday.Griselda Nevarez

She added, “I think for so long it’s been a very nasty debate. It’s been a wedge issue and it’s been very much politicized. And he reminded us that we’re talking about human beings. That was very touching.”

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