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Fasting and Demonstrating for Immigration Reform
In the final weeks of 2013, activists for immigration and labor rights, many of them faith-based, kept up the pressure for immigration reform. An initiative that garnered significant media coverage was“Fast for Families” on the National Mall. It was launched November 12 with a morning press conference and evening prayer vigil and concluded December 12 with peaceful protests in the offices of U.S. representatives. At the launch, prominent leaders spoke of the moral crisis caused by our country’s broken immigration system and its impact on millions of families. Many speakers made a commitment to participate in the fast.
During each day of the fast, participants refrained from eating until after sundown. The goal of the fast was to “send a clear and visible message to Congress” that the current immigration system needs to be fixed. According to Rev. Noel Anderson, a grassroots organizer for immigrant rights with Church World Service, the fast brought attention to the fact that millions of families are being separated as a result of our broken immigration system. “Millions live in daily fear that their mom, dad, sister, or brother could be detained or deported,” he said. “We are at a point where we have to escalate our efforts, expose the injustice, and engage the heart of our country.”
Eliseo Medina, secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), said that he was personally motivated to fast. “Doing without food will not be easy, and I know that I will suffer physical hunger. But there is a deeper hunger within us,” Medina said. “A hunger for an end to a system that creates such misery among those that come here to escape poverty and violence in search of the American dream, yet too often find death or mistreatment.”
On December 12, at the conclusion of the fast, more than 1,000 advocates fanned out through the office buildings of the House of Representatives at midday, occupying the offices of more than 170 Republican and four Democratic lawmakers for about an hour. In the office of Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the second-ranking House Republican, half a dozen protesters sat on the carpet, chanting and praying. The Rev. Carmelo Santos, a Lutheran pastor from Springfield, VA, prayed in English and Spanish for Rep. Cantor to “find his way to a good compromise” to provide a path to citizenship for more than 11 million immigrants who are in the country illegally.
Bread for the World emphasizes the role of immigration as an exodus from hunger and poverty. Because poverty is more common among unauthorized immigrants than others in the United States, ranging from 21 percent to 35 percentimmigration reform would help reduce U.S. hunger and poverty.
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