A project of the Center for Community Change

Fair Immigration Reform Movement Groups Participate in Mass Vigils in 200 House Offices; NY, PA, IL Members Focus of Vigils

For Immediate Release: Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013

Contact: Donna De La Cruz, ddelacruz@communitychange.org (202) 339-9331; (202) 441-3798 (cell)

FIRM Senior Organizer Rudy Lopez Breaks Fast After 22 Days of Protesting House Inaction 

(WASHINGTON)—Immigrant rights activists, including members of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement, participated today in vigils held at 200 House GOP offices to call for action on immigration reform. The vigils were held on the day Congress was scheduled to leave town for the holidays as a reminder to elected leaders of the moral and human crisis caused by the nation’s broken immigration system.

After the vigils, the activists went to the “Fast for Families” tent to mark the end of the more than one-month long fast to show Members of Congress the sacrifice people are willing to make to achieve comprehensive immigration reform. FIRM Senior Organizer Rudy Lopez ended his fast today after 22 days.

“Throughout 2013, activists have stepped up and escalated pressure on Congress to act on immigration reform and we will not give up our fight and we will return in 2014 stronger than ever and more united in our mission,” said FIRM spokesperson Kica Matos.

FIRM member CASA in Action played a huge role in today’s vigils, going to many House offices including that of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

“Leaders today saw a preview of the 2014 campaign to win immigration reform,” said CASA in Action Executive Director Gustavo Torres. “We will not stand by as millions of families and communities get ripped apart, leaving children alone without their parents, and people to die in the desert trying to come to this country for a better life.”

Three other FIRM groups, the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), the North American Korean Service and Education Consortium (NAKASEC), and the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition (PICC), also held vigils in the following offices: New York Reps. Michael Grimm, Richard Hanna and Christopher Gibson; Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent, and; Illinois Rep. Peter Roskam. The NYIC delegation also visited Republican members from Texas and Georgia.

“The majority of Americans support immigration reform because they know it’s not about politics, it’s about people — mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters and brothers and the sacrifices they make every day to provide for their families,” said Steven Choi, executive director of NYIC. “If the House of Representatives refuse to pass reform in this Congress, they won’t be able to avoid us:  we’re here, we’re loud, we’re organized, and we’re holding them accountable.”

PICC Community Organizer Jorge Salazar, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient, said he joined the vigils to put pressure on the House to put immigration reform to a vote.

“Their inaction continues to keep people separated from their families and Congress must act,” said Salazar, whose aunt was deported in 2001, and his grandfather, who recently passed away, self-deported in 1999.

After the vigils, the activists went to the “Fast for Families” tent on the National Mall to mark the last day of the fast. NAKASEC’s Executive Director DJ Yoon was one of the original fasters and Yoon fasted for 22 days.

Lopez said while his body has weakened over the fast, his spirit has become stronger.

“The stories and lives of those suffering under the broken immigration system are ever present with me and my fasting is a small sacrifice I can do for them,” Lopez said. “Immigration reform is something deeply important to me. I have grown up seeing the effects of our broken immigration system and its impact on the people I love. In 2005, my cousin, Martin Hernandez, died trying to cross the desert into the U.S. He got sick and was left behind. He died cold, hungry and alone. My fasting is but a small sacrifice to remind Congress of the dire need to act on immigration reform.”

“How many more must share the fate of Martin? How many more families must feel the pain and terror of separation from their loved ones? How many more must live in fear?” Lopez added.

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