By Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR
Over the past year, the calls for action on immigration reform have been loud and unwavering. Activists have been arrested for staging sit-ins at their congressional representatives’ offices, DREAMers and their families have risked deportation to bring attention to the cause, and thousands have marched on Washington demanding that Congress do something to fix our broken immigration system. But sometimes the quietest acts of political protest can be the most powerful.
This week I visited the National Mall, just a stone’s throw away from the capitol, and walked into a tent with a sign that said “Day 9 of Fasting.” Inside sat a group of advocates who have been fasting to draw attention to the impact of our broken immigration system on families across the country. As one of the fasters said, the group looks like America. The fasters are from different backgrounds, different ages, and different parts of the country, but they are all committed to a common cause: the fight for families to stay together. And they have been joined by leaders and advocates from across the nation, including members of Congress and faith leaders, who are fasting for a day in solidarity.
As I looked at my friend Eliseo Medina (pictured with me at right), a longtime advocate with the Service Employees International Union, it struck me—despite the hunger he must have been feeling after nine days without food, the only thing I could see in his eyes was resolve and determination. The personal sacrifice that Eliseo and all those participating in the Fast for Families have made exemplifies the strength and spirit of the immigration reform movement. Whether they are hungry or tired, these advocates persist, sending a clear message that this movement will not give up regardless of the obstacles thrown in front of us. The fasters told me that they have gained strength from the community leaders they’ve met and the stories they’ve heard.
We know that the pain of hunger is temporary. But the devastation that thousands of families feel every day when they are ripped apart by deportation is life-changing. As one of the fasters said to me, “Our own suffering pales in comparison to the suffering of those impacted by the broken immigration system.” The fear, exploitation, and harassment that undocumented immigrants encounter in this country is unacceptable and should not go on one day longer.
I am deeply moved by the compassion and sacrifice of the fasters here in Washington and across the country. It is past time that our leaders in Congress show the same compassion to the 11 million aspiring Americans living in this country who want nothing more than a chance to earn their citizenship. We need a solution and we need it soon. For every day that Congress waits and for every excuse that Congress makes, our resolve only grows that much stronger. And if they looked into the same eyes that I looked into this week, our lawmakers would know that there is no way we are going to give up now.