The Common Good

'Fast For Families' Grows As Advocates Starve For Immigration Reform

Date: December 3, 2013

WASHINGTON -- Four immigration activists who had gone without food for 22 days broke their fast on Tuesday, passing the effort onto others as they continue to seek a vote on immigration reform in the House. Reverend Gabriel Salguero of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition is one of those now beginning the "Fast for Families." "The reason we're here is because we believe we're going to win immigration reform," he said at a ceremony on the National Mall marking the handover. "How do I know we're going to win? Because there's a fierce urgency of now. We're turning over our plates in Advent because we're expecting a miracle. And people in faith, we believe in miracles."

The fast has gained high-profile support since it began on Nov. 12 with Eliseo Medina of the Service Employees International Union, Dae Joong Yoon of the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium, Cristian Avila of Mi Familia Vota and Lisa Sharon Harper of the Christian social justice group Sojourners. It's been hard on the participants, all of whom have lost considerable weight. Harper drank chicken broth while the others consumed only water during the three-week period. Aided by activists who joined the fast for shorter periods, they have maintained a constant presence on the National Mall. On Tuesday, the four passed crosses they'd worn around their necks to seven new fasters, including Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.). He will fast for 24 hours, then another member of Congress will take his place. Fifteen members, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), attended the event to show their support.

Advocates are calling for an immediate vote on immigration reform, which is looking increasingly unlikely this year given the congressional schedule. The House is in session for only eight days before Jan. 7, including Tuesday. "We have a broken immigration system, and we have a broken political system in this country," said Reverend Jim Wallis of Sojourners, another one of the seven beginning to fast. "Our politics have become dysfunctional, and there is evidence for that all around. Because of broken politics, we are seeing broken lives."