By Marjorie Nesin
---- — GLOUCESTER — An Annisquam woman who traveled to Washington, D.C., to participate in a demonstration urging Congress to use “compassionate and common-sense” immigration reform, was arrested in the capital, along with more than 100 others.
Wendy von Zirpolo, an Annisquam resident and pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Marblehead, said the focus on families drew her into participating in the demonstration Friday.
“I had to go,” von Zirpolo said. “My prayer is that our leaders take quite seriously the urgency involved and get busy paving a fair and compassionate pathway to citizenship, one that honors families and protects the most vulnerable among us — our children.”
Among those arrested at the protest were 20 undocumented immigrants. The group had blocked the four-way intersection in front of Capitol Hill, lining up along each of the four crosswalks there.
The arrests preceded a congressional hearing at which members of Congress, immigration reform leaders, and immigrants presented testimony and pleas for Congress to pass immigration reform that would prioritize keeping families together.
The arrest was von Zirpolo’s second for civil disobedience. She was also handcuffed in Arizona in 2010 while protesting racial profiling and human rights abuses in a jail there. Von Zirpolo said her experience marching with Arizona immigrant families helped her see immigration reform as a human rights issue.
“It helped me understand who is really impacted by our current system and practices around immigration and detention,” von Zirpolo said.
Those protesting alongside von Zirpolo argued that women disproportionately bear the burden of the current immigration system. Research shows that 70 percent of female immigrants enter the United States through the family visa system — a system so full of requests that it can take decades to process and complete a request.
Protesters want to see that process expedited because of the toll that the system they call “backlogged” takes on women and their families, von Zirpolo said.
“My hope in participating ... is that more and more people join us in that understanding,” von Zirpolo said.