WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, faith and civil rights leaders gathered in a heated tent outside the Capitol building to announce that they had begun a national fasting campaign as a way to pressure Congress to act on immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship. At least four speakers said that they would either fast in solidarity for a few days or fast until they needed medical attention.
Faith and civil rights leaders are using the “Fast for Families” event to highlight the “moral crisis caused by our country’s broken immigration system and its impact on millions of families.” They believe that such national efforts could pressure House members to take up reform efforts, despite House members saying that there wasn’t enough time in the remaining 2013 legislative days. Here are four faith and civil rights leaders explaining why they believe that fasting would pressure Congressional leaders to act on immigration reform:
Rev. Jim Wallis is a conservative faith leader and President of the Christian media site Sojourners. He is fasting for two days because “all of us are responsible. The fix will require all of us. There’s no good reason to oppose immigration reform — there’s no policy reason. It is fear. And it is self-interest and dysfunction.” He added, “today we’re praying for a miracle or in January, or in February, and we will not go away until [reform] passes… I think fasting and prayer shouldn’t end until we get comprehensive immigration reform.”
Sister Simone Campbell is the Executive Director of the Network Lobby and a prominent member of the pro-reform Nuns On The Bus movement. She will be fasting for two days because she wants to “fast to generate action” among progressive Republicans as a way to “know the hunger of so many people” who want comprehensive immigration reform. She is hopeful that reform will gain headway by Christmas time and if it doesn’t, then she will continue to participate in such events to keep immigration reform relevant. She said, “We’ll keep at it. We’re not going away. This is a horror… This is the wrong way forward for our nation. And while justice is slow, it will come.”
Dae Joong Yoon is the Executive Director at the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC). He will be fasting for a full nine to ten days, or until he is prevented from doing so by medical professionals because “the pain of family separation has to be stopped and we need action from Congress.” He said, “I’m a father and I’m an immigrant and I know how important it is for families to stay together.” He believes that the way to get Congressional members to pay attention is to “demonstrat[e] immigrant voting power…and identifying key races that we can show our power at the ballot,” a sentiment shared by immigrants during recent gubernatorial elections.
Rev. Barbara Williams Skinner is the President of Skinner Leadership Institute and co-chair of the National African American Clergy Network. She will be fasting sun up to sun down for 21 days because she believes that “fasting would bring attention across the nation to the immorality to what is happening. Americans will begin to see that whether they are undocumented or not, this is not the kind of nation that we want to be… our strategy is to make it uncomfortable enough in [House Republican] districts so that when they go home, they’ll be meeting fasters.” She also said, “If you’ve been around Washington, D.C., [reform] could be dead one day, alive the next, depending on how uncomfortable people are made.”
This is not the first time that faith leaders have used civil disobedience protests to bring awareness to the need to pass immigration reform. At the end of October, some faith leaders began a 40 day hunger strike, subsisting only on sparkling water and broth. Earlier in July, faith leaders and immigration advocates participated in days-long fasts as well.