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Views & Analysis

December 6, 2013

Hungry For Immigration Reform

And Samantha Ames, Esq. NCLR Staff Attorney

For the past 5 days, we have eaten nothing.

We continue to work, drinking only water. We continue to prepare food for our families, and we watch our colleagues eat at lunch. Sometimes it’s hard, but we are committed to fasting because we are committed to Fast for Families. We are committed to raising awareness about the need for commonsense immigration reform. We are fasting to show Speaker John Boehner and other House leadership the urgency of voting on the comprehensive bipartisan proposal that has been introduced in the House by symbolizing the human cost of delay.

But the reasons we fast go well beyond the political. We fast because we believe in equality under the law. We fast because we believe that every person, regardless of who they are, where they come from, or what their citizenship status may be, is entitled to humane treatment. We fast because we believe it is wrong to tear families apart, hold people in inhumane detention conditions, and deny due process before deporting millions. We fast because we believe everyone in this country deserves a chance to make it a more perfect union. We fast because we are bound together as a human family, and we refuse to leave a single brother or sister behind.
The brave men and women who began this fast 25 days ago on the National Mall represent a broad and diverse coalition. They have received widespread support and encouragement from politicians, celebrities, and other leaders from diverse communities. Those of us who have joined the fast come from all colors, creeds, national origins, sexual orientations, and gender identities, but we are united in our commitment to equal rights and human dignity. This past Tuesday, Rev. Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr., called on Speaker Boehner to bring the bill to a vote immediately. “To our brother Mr. Boehner, Representative Boehner, the best time is now,” King said. “The right time is now, the correct time is now, and the only time is now.” NCLR joins her and our coalition partners in this their call. We stand in solidarity with this united family for the values that make our country a beacon for all who seek a life free from oppression.

When we first decided to join this action, it was not lost on us that the Fast for Families follows in the tradition of great American leader Cesar Chavez. Chavez’s 36-day fast in 1988 was known as the Fast For Life. He was inspired to make his personal sacrifice by “the terrible suffering of the farm workers and their children, the crushing of farm worker rights, the dangers of pesticides, and the denial of fair and free elections.”  Chavez’s activism, personal sacrifice and unwavering faith in the possibility of social change made an undeniable difference in countless lives. Most importantly, it fostered a new generation of activists that have carried his brand of nonviolent direct action forward. Both of us are activists at heart. We have marched, protested, shut down intersections, occupied offices, and otherwise railed against injustice in all its forms. In many ways the work we both do at NCLR was shaped and informed by that tradition. Now, as lawyers, we are often one step removed from the grassroots that were once a part of our daily lives. But this fast moved us to stand with our brothers and sisters in a fundamentally human act of solidarity.

The fasters in DC have combined nonviolent protest with modern technology to demonstrate the cruelty of our immigration system, and the country is responding. While support came slowly at first, in the 25 days since it began, the fast has gone viral. What began as 4 activists fasting in a plastic tent in Washington, D.C. has become a nationwide movement of thousands. We the people are responsible for pressuring our elected officials to bring about change, and together we can make change happen. We have gained traction in recent days but each and every one of us needs to do more. We cannot rest and we cannot give up. And we cannot abdicate our power as a people to force those we have elected to do what is right for our country.

This Tuesday, the original fasters concluded their 22 day fast and literally passed the crosses they were wearing around their necks to the next group of fasters, a group equally diverse as themselves. We must continue to stand in solidarity with those who have sacrificed so much, from Cesar Chavez, to each and every person across the United States who is literally starving for immigration reform. We need a vote in the House now. Each day that passes without action, we grow hungrier. As we stand together in our current struggle to pass commonsense immigration reform, Chavez’s words, spoken many years ago, ring in our ears:
“The solution to this deadly crisis will not be found in the arrogance of the powerful, but in solidarity with the weak and helpless. I pray to God that this fast will be a preparation for a multitude of simple deeds for justice. Carried out by men and women whose hearts are focused on the suffering of the poor and who yearn, with us, for a better world. Together, all things are possible.”

If you are with us, here are some of the ways you can support the fast and push Congress to pass commonsense immigration reform:

  1. CALL (866) 584-0896 and tell Speaker Boehner to support bill H.R.15 and pass immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship for 11 million immigrants.
  2. TEXT “Justice” to 787753 to receive more information on immigration reform.
  3. POST pictures and reasons you are supporting this fast on social media.
  4. FAST with us for a day, a week, or however long you feel comfortable.

For more information on how you can help, go to fast4families.org.

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