Why I Fasted for 11 Days

Vincent Pan, CAA’s Executive Director, fasted for 11 consecutive days to highlight the moral crisis of our broken immigration system and as a prayer for the over 11 million undocumented family members that are torn apart each day. This is his reflection on his 11 days of fasting.

In mid-November, a group of community leaders began a national fasting campaign in Washington, D.C. calling on House Republicans to act on immigration reform.

Today, several members of the CAA staff and many of our allies are fasting in solidarity. Some of us have not eaten since yesterday afternoon, while some of us have not eaten for several days.

I personally began fasting 11 days ago. My decision was inspired by the courage of three fasters who forwent sustenance for 22 days as an act of prayer for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country who live without basic legal protections or civil rights.

During my fast I have been thinking long and hard about the human lives that comprise the anguished statistics of immigration: the more than 1,000 families who each day are separated by deportation proceedings, the 477 human beings who lost their lives last year trying to cross the border to pursue the American dream, the hundreds of thousands of community members who this holiday season have been waiting, sometimes for decades, to be reunited with their loved ones.

I have been thinking about them and about the many immigration stories that have been shared with me. These are the stories of how our families came to America and came to be American.

It is true that we arrive from distinct corners of the world or under varying circumstances or during different time periods. But it is also true that we all share the common ideals of hope, aspiration, family and community.

I have been fasting for 11 days because I believe our immigration policies must reflect those common ideals. I believe those ideals must define who we are, not simply as rhetorical devices, but in the manner we practice and present ourselves to the world. A country that callously separates immigrant families is only deporting its soul and failing its conscience.

It is wrong to me that House Republicans refuse to allow a debate on the comprehensive immigration reform bill that has already passed the Senate. The President must also do more to halt unnecessary deportations immediately.

This evening I will end my fast at a community gathering with colleagues and allies who have also been fasting, knowing that many others share my commitment to a world that works for everyone and are willing to sacrifice to achieve it.


Supporters brought photos of their immigrant families and shared their hopes for a better nation that values immigrants.


Ten people joined the Bay Area solidarity fast and many others supported our efforts. Organizations that joined Chinese for Affirmative Action were API Equality – Northern California, La Colectiva, Chinese Progressive Association, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, Jobs with Justice – San Francisco, and National Center for Lesbian Rights.


Fasters came together to end their fast under the banner, “Break Bread, Not Families.”

Civil disobedience has always represented belief in action. These local activists show that each of us, wherever we may be, can reflect our beliefs from the inside out to stand up for justice and equality.