UCC executive minister joins fast for immigration reform
Written by Emily Schappacher December 4, 2013
The Rev. Linda Jaramillo, center, with UCC members at Fast for Families Dec. 5 in Washington, D.C.
After 22 days of fasting, with only water to sustain them, a core group of four immigration advocates ended a fast for legislative reform on Dec. 3. But a new group of fasters is stepping in to replace them, including the Rev. Linda Jaramillo, one of the national officers of the United Church of Christ and executive minister of Justice and Witness Ministries.
Jaramillo will travel to Washington, D.C., Dec. 5 to stand in solidarity with activists who have been gathered in a tent on the National Mall since Nov. 12 to Fast for Families, a bold effort to urge Congress to act on comprehensive immigration reform and keep the momentum around the movement alive.
"It's a broad-based coalition of people working together," Jaramillo said. "I was really inspired not only by the fasters' commitment, but by the way in which they decided to do a witness at a time that is really important for families."
During Fast for Families: A Call for Immigration Reform, immigrants, leaders and activists have been fasting every day and night, abstaining from all food and drinking only water, in an effort to move the hearts of members of Congress to pass legislation that includes a pathway to citizenship for the country's 11 million undocumented immigrants. Jaramillo will fast for 24 hours beginning on Dec. 5, and will lead a prayer service with the fasters and members of the faith community that evening.
"This is obviously about people of faith standing in solidarity with our immigrant brothers and sisters," Jaramillo said. "However, I will also be raising a voice for the UCC and to the UCC about our commitment to social justice. I will be calling for our church members to join in the fast in any way they can and join in prayer from wherever they are."
The fasters have attracted attention in Washington, D.C., and beyond. President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Democratic lawmakers - including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi - have visited the fasters to offer encouragement. On Dec. 4, Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) and the Rev. Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., publically joined the fast.
The fasters have yet to attract the attention of Republican lawmakers, particularly House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) who has said he will not bring the bipartisan, comprehensive bill passed by the Senate in June to a vote in the House. Two House committees have passed piecemeal bills dealing with portions of the Senate's bill, but none have come up for a vote of the full House. With only days left of the 2013 legislative session, immigration advocates are prepared to take the fight into 2014.
"What we have wanted and have been advocating for for a long time is comprehensive immigration reform," Jaramillo said. "The more we look at it, that may not be an achievable goal, but we're still pushing for it. We will continue to advocate for children and families, as well as for a pathway to citizenship."
The advocates in the vigil on the mall also will continue their push for reform. After taking a few days to recover and regain their strength, the four fasters - Cristian Avila of Mi Familia Vota in Phoenix; Lisa Sharon Harper of Sojourners in Washington, D.C.; Dae Joong Yoon of the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium in Los Angeles; and Eliseo Medina of the Service Employees International Union in Washington, D.C. - plan to return to the tent on the National Mall to resume their work, emboldened by their support and hopeful for their futures.
"As we fasted, the American people responded with overwhelming support and solidarity," the four fasters said in a joint statement before ending their fast. "Thousands chose to fast and pray, reigniting the power of the immigration reform movement and strengthening our spirits and determination."