After fasting for 11 days last year, I have been forgoing food on Wednesdays for the past month to identify with and call attention to the suffering caused by our country’s broken immigration system. My fast has been part of the Fast for Families campaign that began at the end of 2013, and it has given me the opportunity to consider the stories of so many people.
I witnessed a teenager break down at a public meeting, recounting how her mother was stolen by ICE. I heard from teachers whose young students are in foster care because their parents are detained. Restaurant workers confide that bosses take advantage of them because they lack the right documents, while other immigrants are harassed and treated as less than human.
These stories of suffering are as heartbreaking as they are widespread.
Over 11.7 million immigrants live in fear and without basic civil rights protections. Hundreds of thousands can’t be with their loved ones – sometimes for decades – due to an unfair visa system. Everyday unnecessary deportations split 1,100 people from their children, parents, siblings, and spouses.
This is a moral crisis that must be addressed.
Polls show an overwhelming majority of Americans want comprehensive immigration reform — a reform that creates a pathway to citizenship, clears visa backlogs and reunites families, and ends senseless deportations. The U.S. Senate has already approved a bill that the President has indicated he would sign, and a majority of the House of Representatives is ready to act.
Yet Republican leaders Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor shamelessly refuse to allow a vote on the bill.
This is unconscionable and it is time to hold Boehner and Cantor accountable.
Last month, fellow fasters for immigration reform traveled by bus from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. to hold town halls, church gatherings, and community meetings in more than 75 congressional districts. I rode throughout California.
The buses now arrive in Richmond, Virginia — the home of Majority Leader Eric Cantor — and we are asking everyone to call him at (202) 225-4000 and say that you demand a vote on immigration reform legislation now. You can also click here to add your name to the support petition.
I have learned that hope is acting in the face of uncertainty. If I can fast, I know you can pick up the phone and dial.
I head to Virginia this Saturday to join the fasters as the bus campaign culminates in Washington, D.C. next week. CAA fully supports and will be participating in other local immigration actions which are kicking up to call for the President to do more.
Please stay tuned.
Vincent Pan is the executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action, a community-based civil rights organization in San Francisco.