Crowd eager for immigration speech

It won't be the first time Pope Francis has spoken about immigration, but his speech this afternoon is drawing anticipation from many around the city.

Marta Romero, 63, came all the way from Honduras to "meet" the pope.

Romero, who is a homemaker in Honduras but whose six children have made their way to the U.S., said she likes that the pope is always talking about immigration.

Her son-in-law Victor Malgar, who has been in Philadelphia for two years, said the City of Brotherly Love has been welcoming. But most important, he said, there are a lot of jobs, especially in construction.

Romero and her family were waiting anxiously near the front of general admission section at Independence Hall -- they started staking out seats at 4 a.m.

Programming at Independence Hall  began at 12:30 and included a lively and eclectic mix of salsa, African drumming, children's choirs and Chinese dancers. 

Moving speeches were delivered from a man who is deaf and recounted hardships in China where support for the disabled lags far behind the United States. A woman from Sudan told of the horrors she endured in a prison, sentenced to death for adultery, a sentence eventually lifted.

And in a long but powerful presentation five people who hail from very different corners of the world read the Declaration of Independence allowed, drawing cheers at the well known verse, "all men are created equal."

The Rev. Peter Donohue, president of Villanova University, said he was moved by Pope Francis' message at the Cathedral this morning: What about you? What  are you going to do to make a difference?

Donohue said he plans to send a letter out to the university community next week, exploring how the school can help with the refugee crisis. "We have a lot of resources," Donohue said, shortly after attending the mass with hundreds of other clergy. "I'm going to ask our people to really look at the situation and see what we can do."

John Jarvis, Director of the National Park Service, said that when he greets the pope, he will thank him for visiting this place and for his encyclical on the environment.

"Independence Hall is a representation for the nation and for the world of the place where this nation was formed and where principles of freedom, civil rights," started, he said.

Secretary of the United States Interior Sally Jewell, who emigrated to the US from England when she was 3, said the opportunities in the states are unmatched

"Here it doesn't matter what your accent is, you can come from just about anywhere and be successful," she said.

Mariola Strand, of Lambertville N.J. said she was looking forward to the pope's speech and hoped that it would uplift people, especially immigrants in places like Syria.

Strand was an immigrant herself several years ago. Now 56, Strand came by herself to the United States when she was 19 with only $5 in her pocket. She arrived in Baltimore and worked in a factory, eventually marrying her boss and getting her citizenship. She is now a proud American.

"I built a beautiful life," she said.

In discussing immigration in the U.S., she noted: "When I go to Poland, it's just Polish people, you see everybody here. There's such a diversity of people."