Washington, D.C.—The national Fast for Families bus tour campaign ended their journey yesterday in front of the U.S. Capitol building on the National Mall where hundreds gathered in support.
The buses, which returned to Washington after covering more than 90 congressional districts during a seven-week tour, joined a female immigration advocacy group, We Belong Together — Women for Commonsense Immigration Reform, whose members have been fasting and praying for the House to pass reform that’s needed to keep their families together.
“I am committed to doing this work because it is an issue that affects women and children,” said solidarity faster and We Belong Together member Susana Sandoval. She explained that there are many cases of children who are U.S. citizens, but whose parents are undocumented. These children, who are sometimes quite young, may come home from school only to find that one or both of their parents have been detained and subsequently deported without the opportunity to contact their children. The children are then put into the already strained foster care system.
“Women are stepping up and taking care of each other,” Sandoval said. The women who are legal residents recognize how traumatizing deportation can be for children and often become foster or even adoptive parents for these children.
“The system is broken,” she said. We need to put continuous pressure on the representatives in order to get a vote on immigration.
Although some women like Susana Sandoval and fellow We Belong Together advocate Gema Lowe will continue to fast to ensure continued pressure on the House, other fasters from Fast for Families and We Belong Together broke their fast. They shared communion with rally attendees at the beginning of a set program that included speakers such as Fast for Families leader DJ Yoon, Secretary Henry Cisneros, NAACP Chairwoman Roslyn M. Brock, and Sojourners’ Jim Wallis.
The stymie of immigration reform denies hope to individuals who are dreaming of a better life for them and their families, Chairwoman Brook told Sojourners.
“That [hope of a better life] is the American Dream that all of us have aspired to,” Brook said. “We have benefitted from that, and so why would we not want that for our fellow brothers and sisters. I think that is the horrible tragedy in denying an opportunity for citizenship for those who are undocumented.”
All of us here have family, friends, and coworkers who are affected by this issue, added rally attendee and Fast for Families supporter Jaime Contreras. Contreras, who came as a child to the United States from El Salvador in 1988, is now a U.S. citizen and serves in the United States Military. He owns a house, pays taxes, and is very active in public services. His hope is that not only Dreamers (referring to the young immigrants who would benefit from the DREAM Act), but also their parents would be able to have a path to citizenship.
Ultimately, the hope of both Fast for Families and We Belong Together participants is that by following the example of nonviolent protestors such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, they will be able to inspire House leaders to vote for the immigration reform needed to keep families together. The rally ended with a march to Speaker Boehner’s office to deliver a letter and petition with more than 200,000 signatures on it. In these documents they urged Speaker Boehner to push for a vote on “commonsense immigration reform” and to ensure that all immigrants have a chance to pursue the American Dream.
Kara Lofton is the web/editorial intern at Sojourners.