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Hope Reborn From Fast for Immigration Reform

04/28/2014 04:19 pm ET | Updated Jun 28, 2014

For me, it started with an invitation from a friend, Mary Kay Henry of Service Employees International Union, to visit the Fast for Families tent on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Their fast, which inspired me and thousands of others to fast in the weeks since, memorialized immigrants' journey to a better future here. The fast focused all of our demands for immigration reform and an end to deportations from Congress and the president.

I left the tent after spending just a day with them to travel to Atlanta to be with my daughters and husband for Thanksgiving. As a vegetarian Dominican, I usually go for the yucca before the turkey anyway -- but I wanted to go further.

Surrounded and supported by my family, I kept fasting for a total of 13 days -- and on and off since then. I've never had more energy nor felt more connected to millions of people in our country cut off from their families by unjust laws and the millions more deported.

Fasting has kept my own hope alive for a change in law and policy to come soon.

Although fasting has touched a nerve in our movement, it has had even more of an impact in the public psyche.

According to We Belong Together, between March 8 and April 9, more than 1,500 women fasted through 80 events in 35 states as well as in Washington D.C. and Mexico City. In addition, 100 more women fasted for 48 hours on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Reinforcing this message, fasters such as Rudy Lopez have crisscrossed the nation in "Fast4Families" bus tours that reached north, south, east and west.

Some 500 results turn up in a news search for the Fast for Families and We Belong Together fasts alone. Our movement has shown how a few -- a handful of Congressional members and the president and some advisers, really -- hold back reforms most Americans already accept.

Since last fall, Gamaliel leaders across the country have joined me in fasting along with many of our African-American, White and Latino pastors for 40 hours over the Christmas holiday. Members in our organizations in 12 states from Hawaii to the Heartland have been fasting with the women's group, We Belong Together -- one state for each million undocumented Americans and one left over for the millions more the Obama administration has wrongly deported.

This summer, Gamaliel will plan another tour that will converge on the Ohio District of House Speaker John Boehner to ask him to bring our bill to a vote.

As I think back, I realize that Thanksgiving -- the most American of holidays -- was exactly the right moment to begin fasting for immigration reform and to end deportations.

It commemorates the time when our first immigrants celebrated the land that those who were here before them taught them to harvest. And it's a time of family togetherness, which is what we and our allies in the campaign for immigration reform want.

Most Americans already understand that immigrants are us: Our grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts, uncles and cousins. People here for life (asylum seekers), liberty (political refugees) and the pursuit of happiness (entrepreneurs, farmworkers, entry-level employees who do the jobs others won't take and more).

And people without papers because our broken system kept them out despite the opportunities they bring us to build a stronger country.

We have just a few stubborn holdouts, who happen to work in Congress, to convince -- or replace.

By next Thanksgiving, it is my hope and belief that fasting, and all of our other efforts, will have turned the tide at last. As we say at Gamaliel, if God so wills, it will come to pass. If we continue to speak and act for what we know is right -- we will win.

This post originally appeared on Equal Voice News