Group wants to build Virgin Mary statue overlooking border

SAN DIEGO — San Diego residents and the San Diego Organizing Project announced a fundraising campaign Friday to build a 40-foot statue of the Virgin Mary overlooking the U.S.-Mexico border.

The campaign is aimed at raising $1 million by early 2019 to match The California Endowment’s contribution toward construction of the statue, titled “Welcome the Stranger” and intended to evoke the likeness of the Statue of Liberty.

Campaign supporters announced the fundraising drive about a mile north of the north of the border during the creation of an art installation at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church, where San Diego residents were writing the names of friends and family affected by federal immigration policies on colored ribbons.

“All people deserve to be treated with dignity and compassion, regardless of their background or immigration status,” said sculpture artist Jim Bliesner. “With this sculpture we can remember those who have struggled and provide hope for those who will follow.”

Residents of the immigrant community in San Ysidro shared their migration stories, often describing Mary as a symbol of inspiration given her immigration to Egypt after the birth of Jesus Christ. According to Bliesner, the sculptured figure will hold a torch similar to the Statue of Liberty. It will also feature sharp angles and bright colors in Mary’s robe to symbolize the struggle and hope of the migrant journey.

Campaign supporters who donate $150 or more will have their name inscribed on a brick at the site of the sculpture. Rewards for smaller donations include posters, T-shirts and a high-resolution graphic designed to be shared on social media.

“We invite all Americans who believe in welcoming people with compassion to join us,” said Our Lady of Mount Carmel Deacon Joseluis Medina. “By donating at and sharing the project with your friends and family, you can build a historic symbol of welcome for immigrants and refugees in our communities.”

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