Pascha Morgan, an activist from Iowa who is walking across the country to protest treatment of asylum-seeking migrants, passed through Manhattan on Wednesday and Thursday on his way to Texas.
On foot, Morgan has traveled about 300 miles of the 1,200 journey between Iowa and Clint, Texas.
A self-professed history buff, Morgan said World War II has always been a topic of interest to him, and learning of the conditions in detention centers on the border put it in new perspective for him.
“When I heard the report, I just couldn’t sleep for like a week and a half, I couldn’t do anything but think about these people,” Morgan said. “Something about it was just too familiar.”
As a crime-victim advocate for the Iowa-based nonprofit Creative Visions, Morgan said the issue was not something he could throw money at or use fame to rally people to the cause, but he felt the need to do something.
“In this country we walk,” Morgan said. “We walk, we march, we sit, we stand, we do all kinds of things when we feel like injustice is part of it … and so I thought, ‘I’ll walk.’ I just had to do something.”
“One of the things I tell people is, this isn’t really so much about policy as it is about people,” Morgan continued. “Right now, there’s nothing I can do about the policies. But I do know there’s a better way to do it … I feel we’re better than this, we just are as a society. This is, people deserve love and people deserve humanity. And that is not a privilege, that is a right of every person who breathes upon this earth.”
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Beth Chrzastek, his wife of 10 years, said over the phone that she is proud of her husband’s mission and message, though she said that it’s never ideal to pack up and put your job and life on hold when you have a family.
“The first thing that went through my mind when Pascha was like ‘I’m gonna walk,’ is, ‘That’s really so Pascha,’” Chrzastek said. “He’s always been a very big activist … when it comes to something he feels strongly about.”
With eight kids, three of whom are still at home, Morgan said the hardest part of the trip is being away from his family.
“The journey itself, that’s not something that’s difficult because it’s something that I’m extremely passionate about,” he said. “So there’s a purpose behind it, and so I don’t find that part difficult. Being away from my family, however, that’s the hardest part.”
Chrzastek said it was particularly hard on their youngest daughter, who is 5 years old.
“It’s hard to explain to her why dad is walking, why dad’s not here,” she said. “I just hope people can see that it’s definitely about watching for humanity and compassion for the treatment of the children that are being held at these detention camps. But it’s also showing that you can push self aside in such a selfish world, sometimes, just to show others you care. And his thing was always, ‘Well if one of them see me, if one of them read about me … then they’ll know they’re not alone.’ His love for other people is just incredible, it’s something that you don’t see everyday.”
About three weeks into his trip — which he calls “MAD AF” (March Against Detaining Asylum-seeking Families) — Morgan has been traveling at the pace of 10 to 15 miles a day, staying at mostly small towns along the way.
Morgan said one thing the trip has changed about him is what he defines as a small town, as well as his perception of distance.
“I just think in terms of walking kind of now,” he said. “Somebody said the other day, they were like, ‘Oh yeah that’s about 30 miles or so away,’ and I’m thinking in my head, ‘Okay that’s two or three days.’”
“I’ve kind of been going off, what I call, my angels, along the way,” he said. “I tend to believe in the innate goodness of people, and this trip has done more to enforce that than anything else.”
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Born in Leavenworth, Kansas, he lived all over the place growing up in a military family, and went on to serve four years in the army. However, he spent a lot of time with family in eastern Kansas between deployments growing up.
“[Kansas] has always kind of been my home away from home,” he said.
Morgan gets along mostly by camping at night, but the American Legion helped provide a room at Super 8 for his stay in Manhattan.
He visited Manhattan several times throughout his life, but said it has been a long time.
“My biggest impression really coming back 30 some-odd years later, is how much it’s changed … it’s amazing how much it’s grown,” he said.
Though not everyone may agree on immigration issues, he said, the majority of feedback on his mission along the way has been positive.
“When I say things like, ‘Look, regardless of policy, everybody deserves love and everybody deserves human dignity,’ so far nobody has said, ‘No they don’t,’” he said.
“I know it’s controversial,” he said. “And I’m not trying to create controversy. I’m just trying to get people to see that humanity’s giving love is key … and see people for what they are, which is human.”
He keeps a Facebook page updated with events of his journey.