The Common Good

Notes From The Fast For Families Tent

Though the Fast for Families tent sits in the shadow of the Capitol on the National Mall, entering it is a decidedly non-Washington experience. The tent doesn’t have the pristine floors of Capitol Hill or the meticulous displays of the Smithsonian. Hand-scrawled notes on colorful paper from well-wishers line the tent walls. A makeshift altar built around a migrant’s battered shoe found in the Arizona desert is surrounded by mementos left behind by thousands of visitors. And at the tent’s core, people have stopped eating to highlight the urgent need for immigration reform.

At first, I wondered if fasting could actually influence the legislative progress. Who would listen? But now it’s been a month since the fast began, and its impact on the reform movement and on me has been profound and—I suspect—permanent. More than 200 people have fasted in the tents, and more than 10,000 have fasted across the country. The spirit of what’s possible fills every person that enters the tent. To steal a line from my hero Eliseo Medina, the former secretary-treasurer of SEIU who fasted for 22 days, “The hunger for food is great, but the hunger for justice is greater.”

The Fast for Families represents a depth of commitment to immigration reform beyond anything I’ve seen before. The four original fasters—Eliseo Medina, Dae Joong Yoon of NAKASEC, Lisa Sharon Harper of Sojourners, and Cristian Avila of Mi Familia Vota—come from different backgrounds and showcase the diversity within the immigration movement. I watched Eliseo go gaunt before my eyes, losing 25 pounds and having his hair turn completely white. I watched DJ Yoon be taken to the hospital, and then immediately return after being discharged the following day.