UCC advocates welcome the Fast for Families bus tour to final stop in D.C.
Written by Emily Schappacher April 9, 2014
The Rev. Noel Anderson and Sandy Sorenson break bread for the fasters at the Fast for Families Across America event April 9 in Washington, D.C.
After 66 days on the road, traveling through 30 states and stopping in 96 U.S. congressional districts, the Fast for Families Across America bus tour made its final stop in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, April 9. The buses were welcomed by hundreds who gathered on the National Mall to welcome home the fasters and immigration advocates and celebrate the progress the campaign has made toward comprehensive reform.
"Today, the coalition of faith, labor and business came together to celebrate a victory in that the majority of America now believes that immigration reform is the right thing to do," said the Rev. Noel Anderson, a United Church of Christ pastor and leader of the UCC's Collaborative on Immigration Reform. "Although the tour is over for now, we are committed to continuing to work toward immigration reform. The UCC will be dedicated to work for immigrant rights and hold our Congress people accountable."
The day's events included testimonies by Fast for Families core fasters, who shared their experiences of the tour, and from the women of We Belong Together, an initiative of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, who had been fasting on the National Mall since April 7. Attendees also broke bread as a ritual to end the fasts. Other speakers were the Rev. William Barber, a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor and president of the North Carolina NAACP, the Rev. Anthony Suarez, vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, and Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.
After the presentations on the National Mall, Anderson and about a dozen other advocates marched in a procession to House Speaker John Boehner's office. While Boehner (R-Ohio) did not open his office door, the group left him a petition with 25,000 signatures of people who support comprehensive immigration reform now. Another coalition that included the Rev. Jim Wallis, well-known public theologian and president of Sojourners, the Rev. John McCullough, president and CEO of Church World Service, and a number of the Fast for Families core fasters met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Anderson, who participated in the southern route of the bus tour, said the UCC had a strong presence at Fast for Families rallies throughout the country, most notably in Vista, Calif., San Bernardino, Calif., Aurora, Colo., Minneapolis, Miami and Virginia Beach, Va. As he traveled from place to place, the aspect of the tour that most impacted Anderson was hearing the stories of immigrants throughout the U.S. and the effects the country's immigration system has had on their lives.
"Parents separated from their children, people unable to visit their loved ones on their deathbeds – Gladys in Vista, Calif., told the story of how her father was deported and, upon trying to reenter the country, he died in the desert," Anderson said. "Stories like these hit us in the heart and make us more motivated to work toward reforming and changing this broken system and stopping deportations."
The next Fast for Families action will take place around Mother's Day, May 11 – "a day in which we continue to think about the importance of family unity and that we need to keep our families together," Anderson said.
Sandy Sorenson, director of the UCC's Washington, D.C., office, participated in the celebration of the tour's last stop. She applauds the Fast for Families campaign's ability to hold political leaders accountable to the country's core values of hope, opportunity, family and community, and commends the courage, resilience and commitment of the fasters and their struggle for justice and equality.
"It is so important for us as people of faith who advocate justice to remember that, as many of the speakers at today's rally noted, we cannot be held hostage by the bounds of political expediency," Sorenson said. "The time is always right to do justice, and even with the challenges of a midterm election year, we cannot falter in our efforts to fix our broken immigration system, a system that tears families apart and contradicts our national identity."
Fast for Families Across America was a follow-up to Fast for Families: A Call for Immigration Reform where, for 30 days in late 2013, hundreds of people gathered in a tent on the National Mall to support five core immigration advocates who fasted for change, surviving on only water for 22 days. The Fast for Families Across America bus tour began Feb. 24, when two buses departed from Los Angeles, one embarking on a northern route while the other traveled though the South, stopping in nearly 70 cities throughout the U.S. before ending the journey in Washington, D.C., on April 9.