More than 300 people walked through the Mission on Friday evening, reciting prayers for the country's 11 million undocumented immigrants. The prayer walk followed an hourlong Mass at St. Peter's Church in which several family members of detained immigrants offered their testimony and called for their relatives' release.
One stirring testimony came from Amelia Martinez, a Guatemalan immigrant whose husband, Ricardo Ivan Martinez, is currently being held in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Texas. Martinez is serving as a witness to a violent crime, but his family fears that he will be deported to Guatemala, where he could be a retribution target.
The Mass and prayer walk comes as millions of immigrants from around the country are pressuring President Barack Obama to use executive action to defer deportation for many immigrants currently living in the U.S.
"It's a key moment. There's a real loss of hope in our community because we were not able to pass immigration reform through the congress," said Lorena Melgarejo from the S.F. Catholic Archdiocese's Department of Public Policy and Social Concerns, which was one of the event organizers.
After the Mass, parishioners lined up in front of the church on Florida Street and began a slow procession while reciting "Hail Mary" prayers in Spanish. Bar and restaurant patrons poked their heads out of doorways on 24th Street as the crowd, which the organizers estimated to be about 350 strong, passed along on the sidewalk.