LGBT Activists Join Fast for Immigrant Families
By Sharita Gruberg
LGBT leaders across the nation abstained from food during the “National Days to Act, Fast and Pray” on December 1-3, in an act of solidarity with immigration reform activists who had been on hunger strike for 22 days, ingesting nothing but water. These fasters joined a long tradition of human rights leaders like Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, and Nelson Mandela who practiced fasting in order to compel decision makers to right moral wrongs.
The immigration fast, known as the “Fast for Families: A Call for Immigration Reform and Citizenship,” was launched on November 12 by immigrant, labor, and faith leaders to demonstrate to Speaker John Boehner and other House leadership the urgent need to pass comprehensive immigration reform in the House. On Tuesday, the original four fasters had grown weak and, nearing the point of medical danger, passed their fasts on to a new group of fasters. Nationwide, over 3,000 people have pledged to fast in solidarity with the core fasters in the hope that their collective commitment will move Speaker Boehner to bring a bill to the floor.
A number of solidarity fasters from the LGBT community have gone above and beyond the 24-hour solidarity fast and have chosen to continue their fasts for as long as they are able. Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, or NCTE, fasted for seven days. On Wednesday, members of NCTE, the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, or NQAPIA, LGBT Progress, and the House LGBT Equality Caucus, visited the fasters at their tent on the National Mall facing the U.S. Capitol. Fasters told Equality Caucus members Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA) and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) why they were fasting. When it was Keisling’s turn, she declared, “I’m here in solidarity and because I absolutely have to be.”
Keisling’s sense of urgency was echoed by the field of wooden crosses covering the National Mall outside the tent, symbols of the 477 lives lost crossing the border in 2012. Ben de Guzman of NQAPIA left a note of support for the fasters in the tent which said, “LGBT people know how to love in the face of adversity. We are with you.”
Arcelia Hurtado and Samantha Ames of the National Center for Lesbian Rights fasted for five days in solidarity. They continue to work through their hunger because they “stand in solidarity with this united family, for the values that make our country a beacon for all who seek a life free from oppression.”
GetEQUAL’s Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez and Heather Cronke participated in 24 solidarity fasts earlier this week. Last Friday, board members, staff and partners of NQAPIA and Immigration Equality participated in 24 hour solidarity fasts. When asked why he is fasting, Immigration Equality’s Detention Staff Attorney Clement Lee said, “I’m fasting on behalf of Immigration Equality’s detained LGBT clients, whose health too often deteriorates in an existence consisting of barbed wire, solitary confinement, and shackles. Throughout my career at Immigration Equality, I’ve watched my clients in detention turn unhealthy shades of pale grey, rapidly lose weight, and grow sick with worry and fear as they face possible deportation to a country where they will be killed for being queer. A single day of reflection and fasting is minimal compared to the severe restrictions our clients in immigration detention suffer to their freedom of movement and right to bodily integrity. With our detained LGBT clients and the advocates who represent them, I stand in solidarity.”
Marco Quiroga of Immigration Equality said, “This Friday, I fast for my gay little brother — who was deported and has been separated from my family for over 8 years — in the hopes that one day we will be reunited. I fast for my mother who single-handedly struggled for over 25 years to keep my family together in the US, who is denied a path to citizenship, and at any moment can be taken away from me. I fast for all the vulnerable members of our community and their families who are suffering because of the broken politics that result in broken families and broken lives – the time for immigration reform is now.”
“Solidarity means standing shoulder-to-shoulder when others need you most. Fasting as part of the National Days to Act, Fast and Pray was one small way to turn words into action and honor my commitment to advancing social justice in all its forms,” said Laura Durso, Director, LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress.
Sharita Gruberg is the Policy Analyst for the LGBT Immigration Project at the Center for American
Source; New America Media