'Nuns on the Bus' visit sparks rally

June 12, 2013

Crowds formed near the intersection of Camelback Road and 22nd Street in Phoenix on Wednesday as a group of Catholic nuns climbed down from a large tour bus for a scheduled visit to the offices of U.S. Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake. Before the women even arrived, supporters and protestors filled the sidewalks.

nuns The "Nuns on the Bus" tour stopped in Phoenix Wednesday, attracting a large crowd. (Photo by Julie Levin-KJZZ)

NETWORK’s “Nuns on the Bus” tour made stops in Tucson and Nogales before arriving in Phoenix as part of a 15-state tour spanning 6,500 miles.

NETWORK is a national Catholic social justice lobby and was founded 47 years ago by Catholic sisters. The organization is urging members of Congress to support comprehensive immigration reform.

There were more supporters than protesters gathered at the rally.  Members of organizations that support immigration reform formed a crowd around the nuns’ bus and podium, with mariachi singers leading the crowd in Spanish songs.

Denae Rodriguez and her husband supported nuns’ visit and showed off their homemade signs in favor of immigration reform.

“My daughter-in-law has been in this country for 20 years and has no path to citizenship right now,” Rodriguez said. “Support the ones who are here, because they are part of our community. They are part of our economy.” 

The groups that oppose illegal immigration mostly stayed away from the action, holding up signs and talking to people who passed from across the street.

Rick Galeener, a member of two anti-amnesty coalitions, was dressed in a priest costume. He believes the nuns claim to be good Catholics but are urging people to break the law. 

“If you want to do things legally, we have all the compassion in the world for you, and we will help you,” Galeener said.

The nuns spoke with staff members from both senate offices before leaving the building to address the public. Cheers erupted as the sisters began to speak.

“We told the senator’s staff that we are firmly behind a path to citizenship, a realistic path to citizenship for the 11 million people in our nation,” said a nun who had spoken to members of Flake’s staff. “We thank the senator’s staff for his leadership in making this bill happen and urged him to continue that leadership with the Republicans and make sure none of the ‘Gang of Eight’ wanders away.”

The nuns are on the last leg of their tour, which began on Ellis Island in May. They are making 53 stops at events in 40 cities throughout 15 states.