Faith, immigrant rights, labor leaders fast day and night on the National Mall to call on Congress to take action on commonsense immigration reform now
(SCHEDULE OF UPCOMING EVENTS & VISITORS BELOW)
WASHINGTON, DC - As communities across the country continue to escalate their campaign for commonsense immigration reform and pressure leadership in the House of Representatives, faith, immigrant rights and labor leaders announced today the launch of "Fast for Families: A Call for Immigration Reform and Citizenship." Leaders committed to a daily fast in front of the U.S. Capitol and at locations across the country to send a clear and visible message to Congress about the moral crisis caused by our country's broken immigration system and its impact on millions of families.
The press conference featured prominent leaders and members of the immigrant community at the "Fast for Families" Community Tent on the National Mall.
"For me this fast is to renew my commitment to the cause of immigrant justice," said Eliseo Medina, former Secretary Treasurer of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). "Doing without food will not be easy, and I know that I will suffer physical hunger. But there is a deeper hunger within us. 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. That is why I fast; not out of anger or despair, but out of faith, hope, and love."
The fast in Washington, DC builds on the pro-immigration reform movement's momentum, with dozens of local and solidarity fasts, events and actions already underway across the country. Fasters will be joined nationwide by groups and activists who are prepared to make sacrifices for the passage of immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship.
Solidarity fasts have already begun in Philadelphia, New York City and Fresno, California. Starting today, fasts will begin in Omaha, Nebraska, Phoenix and Nogales, Arizona with more fasts planned in the coming weeks.
"Understanding the struggle that my family and other families in my community face, I have the moral responsibility to everything in my hands to make a change," said Cristian Avila, the Arizona State Lead for Mi Familia Vota. "If that means my body, my body it is. That's the reason I decided to do the fast till my body can't do it anymore. Anything less than 100% commitment would mean I have failed my community and that is a luxury I don't have."
"For people of faith, this is not a political issue, but a moral one, said Rev. Jim Wallis, President of Sojourners. "And for Christians, how we treat 11 million undocumented people, the 'strangers' among us is how we treat Christ himself."
"Immigration reform will benefit our families, our communities and the one hundred percent," said Sr. Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby. "NETWORK calls on Congress to finally respond to our severely broken immigration system in a way that reflects our nation's values. Our message to Congress is clear: Vote for immigration reform with a pathway to earned citizenship that protects family unity. And do it now!"
Fasters will be abstaining from all food, except to drink water. Four of the fasters, Medina of SEIU, Dae Joong Yoon of NAKASEC, Lucy Tzunun--a Guatemalan immigrant from New York--and Reverend Samuel Rodriguez, President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, will continue to fast until they are prevented to do so by medical professionals. Two other members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander immigrant community will join them later in the week as many more leaders commit to fast in solidarity for periods of 2 or 3 days.
"In this hour, as the people of God prepare for the fast, we are reminded that our struggle is always fought - and won - in the realm of the spirit,"' said Rev. Al Herring of PICO National Network. "In that realm, we are all God's children, we are all citizens of a kingdom of love and justice and we all are fully recognized and valued for who we are. Our work now is to make the spiritual real and bring God's kingdom here on earth."
"In the spirit of Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and other leaders who have acted on the moral imperative to do justice, as well as our ultimate example found in Jesus, I likewise sense an urgent conviction to engage in the spiritual exercise that in my faith narrative produces inspiring results," said Rev. Samuel Rodriguez. "I am engaging in a personal fast as we pray for the vital importance of immigration reform now."
"Every American came to these shores from somewhere else, whether walking across a desert or trapped on a slave ship or fleeing poverty and persecution," said Barbara Williams Skinner, President of Skinner Leadership Institute and co-chair of the National African American Clergy Network. "We all deserved a warm welcome, whether we got it or not, and we must love today's immigrants and their families as we love ourselves."
Following Tuesday's "Fast for Families" launch, faith, labor and immigration activists will begin their fast on the National Mall and hold constant vigils in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol. On Tuesday evening at 6:00 PM, an evening prayer vigil will include Rep. Zoe Lofgren, faith and immigrant rights leaders, and hundreds of immigration reform supporters. The service is organized by CASA in Action.
Fast for Families DC Schedule - Nov. 12-14
All events will begin at the Fast for Families tents at 3rd St SW and Jefferson Dr.
Tuesday, Nov. 12
6:00 PM - Prayer Vigil with Rep. Zoe Lofgren and immigrant families
Hundreds of immigration reform supporters will hear from Rep. Lofgren, faith and immigrant rights leaders from CASA in Action, including Gustavo Torres of CASA in Action at the "Fast4Families" Community Tent. Following brief remarks, the participants will lead a procession to the West Lawn for a candlelight prayer vigil, featuring musical accompaniment.
Wednesday, Nov. 13
10:00 AM - Prayer service hosted by Sister Simone Campbell, NETWORK
Activists from NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, will join together for a prayer service prior to delivering more than 10,000 prayer postcards on immigration reform to members of Congress.
11:30 AM - Workers Lobby and Provide Offerings to Fasters
Eighty SEIU members will gather at the Fast for Families tent to demonstrate immigrant contributions to the economy and workforce. Members will then head to the House offices for lobby visits to members of Congress.
6:00 PM - Youth Prayer Service - Rev. William J. Barber, II
More than 80 activists from Youth in Action will gather for a prayer service for immigration reform with Rev. Jen Butler of Faith in Public Life and Rev. Barber, a leader of the Moral Mondays protests in North Carolina. Rev. Barber will be available to the media from 4:15 to 5:15 PM.