Several of my colleagues at Farmworker Justice and I have had the opportunity to volunteer at the Fast for Families, which is currently underway on the National Mall. Three white tents, visible from the steps of the Capitol, hold the fasters, support staff, and a community room where visitors can stop in to leave messages, design quilt squares, dedicate a cross to someone who died during their journey across the border, view items found in the desert and leave other tokens of encouragement and solidarity.
I have volunteered because I believe that comprehensive immigration reform is necessary, now more than ever. With Congress stalling as border deaths and deportations persist, it’s time to bring new attention to the daily struggles and fears of many of our own community members. I am inspired by the words of Eliseo Medina, who has been fasting since November 12th, when he describes many people in our country who live with the “hopelessness in not knowing that your contributions are recognized and appreciated.” It’s time that our leaders change current policy, which strips individuals of their civil rights and puts a crack in the very foundation upon which our country is built.
As a "caretaker" at the Fast, I kept tabs on the fasters and mostly remained in the background, listening and taking notes and photos when important visitors met with the fasters. I was impressed that, on day 13, spirits remained high. Even though their energy levels are low and some are experiencing pain, the fasters greeted me with smiles. Eliseo leads by example, bringing a determined faith that our leaders will change course.
While I was there, Tom Perez, the U.S. Secretary of Labor, came for a second visit and brought his daughters, both in high school and actively supporting change in their community. He sat next to Eliseo and they spoke about their families’ immigration experiences and their hopes for immigration reform. Most of all, he provided the positive and lighthearted conversation needed at that moment. Perez asked Eliseo to tell his daughters about when he first met Cesar Chavez. The tent was silent except for Eliseo’s voice as he told us that before he met Cesar Chavez he imagined him eight feet tall with a voice like James Earl Jones. His story about joining the movement and becoming a community organizer was inspirational and moving.
I encourage everyone to make a visit to the Fast for Families tents. The fasters cannot receive every visitor but all are welcome to bring their support and leave notes of encouragement, which are delivered to the fasters. Outside of DC, solidarity fasters are joining in, registering with the organizers and even participating in video calls.
On November 26th, the Fast for Families declared December 1st through 3rd National Days of Fasting. During this time, everyone is invited to fast for a day and join others across the nation to call for a vote on comprehensive immigration reform this year. Learn more about the fast by visiting www.fast4families.org. Ready to sign up to fast? Go directly to the sign up page here.