THE BLOG

Why We Fast: A Call for Immigration Reform & Citizenship

11/15/2013 10:28 am ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

Co-authored by: Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, the Current President of The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (Hispanic Evangelical Association), America's largest Hispanic Christian Organization with 40,118 member churches.

Lucy Tzunun's story reveals a lot about her faith. From her own journey from Guatemala to Queens when she was 30 years old, to her brother's deportation in 2012, her faith has been her rock.

Today, faith calls Lucy to do something that she hopes will open the hearts of a Congress that has turned its back on her and her family. In the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, she will pray, she will fast, and she will begin to waste away.

She will not be alone; we will join her. Beginning today, we will remain in prayer and abstain from food alongside Lucy and religious and civic leaders who share our commitment to defending the basic human dignity of immigrant families and workers in our communities.

This action, 'A Fast for Families: A Call for Immigration Reform and Citizenship,' will put the fate of aspiring Americans like Lucy's brother Gerardo at the center of our prayer as we seek to awaken the consciences of Members of Congress. A devout Mormon who had completed two years of missionary work, Gerardo was detained while traveling on a train to Utah.

His story is hardly unique. Every day, more than 1,100 new Americans -- including husbands and wives, parents and children -- are forcibly removed from the country. We will fast to change the hearts of lawmakers who refuse to hear the cries of these families.

Fasting is a sacred undertaking inspired by the prophets that brings us closer to God and demonstrates the moral resolve of our movement. The ultimate example of this is in Jesus Christ, as well as iconic leaders from recent history such as Mahatma Gandhi, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez deprived themselves of nourishment to show solidarity with the oppressed and call society to atone for injustice.

We seek to follow their example. We will forego any food or liquid other than water, and as time goes on, we will attest that this sacrifice strengthens the soul as it breaks down the body. As the rumbling of our stomachs recedes and the early stages of malnutrition affect our bodies, God will sustain us. Will House Speaker John Boehner be able to ignore us as we suffer in front of the House over which he presides?

Everyone who follows the immigration debate knows what we know: commonsense reform is on the cusp of becoming law. Sixty-eight U.S. senators voted for a bipartisan reform bill that includes a path to earned citizenship for aspiring citizens. Similar legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, known as H.R. 15, has attracted several Republican co-sponsors, and many more have voiced their support behind closed doors. If Speaker Boehner allows a vote, immigration reform will pass. He knows this is true.

All that stands in the way is fear, which can be conquered by faith. While pundits speculate about Boehner's political weakness, the truth is that he has a historic opportunity to wield the Speaker's gavel as an instrument of justice. We believe that our moral witness to the suffering of immigrant families will move him to do what is right for our nation. The leaders of Boehner's Catholic faith insist just as we do that he and other Congressional leaders have a moral responsibility to act now.

Passing immigration reform is politically wise, as well as morally right. When President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he reportedly remarked that his party "lost the South for a generation." Speaker Boehner faces just the opposite situation. By allowing a bill to pass, he will enable his party to survive for future generations in red states and blue states alike. If Republicans fail to act, they will seal their fate in the 2014 and 2016 elections and every national election after that.

No political excuse justifies the suffering of Lucy and Gerardo, or the millions just like them from coast to coast. The deprivation we subject ourselves to by fasting pales in comparison to the pain endured by immigrants who watch helplessly as their government destroys their families. For too long, Members of Congress have allowed this suffering in order to shield themselves from political risk. Their inaction is as foolish as it is cruel. The Lord God hears our prayers for reform, for Lucy and for Gerardo. So too must Congress.