Mexican priest gets Jackson's backing for immigration reform caravan

Chicago, Mar 10 (EFE).- The Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow PUSH Coalition is backing Alejandro Solalinde, a Mexican priest known for his work with Central American migrants, and the Caravan of Hope that will travel across the United States this spring to press for immigration reform.

Solalinde visited the coalition's church on the South Side of Chicago on Saturday and said he was surprised at the "decided support" expressed by the black community for the human rights of Central American immigrants.

"For me, it was a surprise, and a historic response to our drama," Solalinde told Efe. "The African-American community, with which we had not had much contact, is very informed and familiar with our drama."

Jackson did not meet with the Mexican human rights activist because he was in Caracas to attend the funeral of President Hugo Chavez.

Jackson's Rainbow PUSH Coalition plans demonstrations against violence in the United States and will promote the Caravan of Hope, which starts April 29 in San Diego, California, and will visit several cities before concluding on May 31 in Washington.

Mexico has "a responsibility" to safeguard the lives of migrants passing through its territory, Solalinde said.

An estimated 300,000 Central Americans undertake the hazardous journey across Mexico each year on their way to the United States.

The trek is a dangerous one, with criminals and corrupt Mexican officials preying on the migrants.

Gangs kidnap, exploit and murder migrants, who are often targeted in extortion schemes.

The United States, for its part, has to accept the fact that it "has been the cause of the suffering" in the region "caused by transnational corporations that enrich a few and impoverish the majority," Solalinde said.

The Catholic priest, who founded the Hermanos del Camino shelter in Oaxaca, was forced to leave Mexico for a short time last year after receiving threats.

"My life will always be threatened," Solalinde said.

"What concerns and hurts me the most are the abuses and deaths of the thousands of people" who cross Mexico daily heading north "with no guarantees," the human rights activist said.

Solalinde will wrap up his visit to Chicago on Sunday with a Mass at St. Pius V Catholic Church.