January 27, 2014

CWS Joins Fast for Families in Next Phase of Campaign

Speakers at a Fast for Families Across America launch event in Hamilton, Ohio. Photo: CWS

WASHINGTON – CWS today joined Fast for Families in announcing the next phase of the campaign to enact commonsense immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship. Building on momentum created last year, “Fast for Families Across America” will visit more than 100 congressional districts in the coming months to engage constituents in a dialogue about the moral crisis caused by our broken immigration system and encourage them to fast, act and pray.

Fast for Families is a collaboration among a diverse group of allies from the faith, immigrant, labor and civil rights communities and individuals committed to fixing our broken immigration system.

“Last year, we built the broadest, most diverse coalition ever seen in the immigration reform movement. Now we are going to expand that coalition by bringing Fast for Families to the rest of the country,” said Eliseo Medina, former Secretary-Treasurer of the Service Employees International Union and one of the core fasters who went 22 days without food last year. “As we enter the next phase of Fast for Families, we do so with a renewed commitment to passing commonsense immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship. We are motivated by the fact that since our first fast began in November of last year, approximately 66,000 people have been deported, at the rate of 1,100 per day, and more than 80 immigrants have died in the desert coming to America to find a better life,” Medina continued.

Medina was joined at the announcement press conference by the Rev. John McCullough, president and CEO of CWS was joined at the announcement press conference by Reverend Jim Wallis, President and Founder of Sojourners, Dae Joong Yoon, executive director of NAKASEC, and Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, co-chair of the National African American Clergy Network.

“When so many said immigration reform was dead, the faith, sacrifice and courage of the fasters was the light on the hill that brought public attention to the moral crisis we are facing with our current broken and unjust immigration system. Now that light is guiding the path to a newfound momentum and urgency across the political spectrum for immigration reform as we launch Fast for Families Across America,” said McCullough.

“The time for immigration reform is now. We have heard the word ‘wait’ in the past. Dr. King heard it. Chavez heard it. Gandhi heard it. Our communities of immigrants continue to hear it as they live in the shadows and watch as their families are torn apart by deportations,” said Dae Joong Yoon, Executive Director of NAKASEC. “With this new phase of Fast for Families, we will be in districts across the country to increase awareness of the human cost of our broken system and raise the level of urgency for reform.”

The “Fast for Families Across America Tour” kicked off on January 27 and will end on April 9th in Washington, DC as Congress is still in session and preparing to return to their districts for a two week recess.

Since the beginning of the campaign, CWS has been mobilizing its 36 member denominations and its affiliates across the country to lend support to the initiative.  “As the Fast for Families campaign moves across the country, people in the pews across this nation, immigrants, refugees and people of good faith and good will absolutely will not give up, vowed McCullough.  “We are prayerfully and powerfully demanding that the House act now.”

As “Fast for Families Across America” launched in Washington, DC, faith leaders and activists gathered for a simultaneous press conference announcing the next phase of the movement at the First Methodist Church in Hamilton, Ohio – part of Speaker Boehner’s district.

“Fast for Families Across America” will progress in two phases. The first phase runs January 27th through February 21st and will consist of fasters participating in events, Congressional visits and community meetings in more than 50 key Congressional districts to engage constituents in to draw attention to the moral crisis caused by our broken immigration system and to organize community action beyond these visits to encourage Congress to act.

Phase two will begin on February 24th and run through April 9th – during the Lenten season – and will include two bus tours with the fasters stopping in more than 50 key Congressional districts for community events, Congressional visits and community meetings. The two “Fast for Families Across America” buses will leave from Los Angeles – one traveling along a northern route and the other bus traveling along a southern route – and will meet in Washington, DC. Along both routes, fasters will be received by the community and participate in day-long events including meetings with faith, labor, business and community leaders and organizations. There will be daily events and will finish with a large community meeting, modeled after the community meetings at the original Fast for Families tent on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

The first phase of “Fast for Families: A Call for Immigration Reform and Citizenship” began in a tent on the National Mall on November 12, 2013 and ended on December 12 to underscore the moral crisis caused by our country’s broken immigration system. Leaders and immigrant members of the community abstained from all food – except water – to move the hearts and minds of members of Congress to pass immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship.

Fast for Families generated national and international attention. President Obama, in a speech on immigration reform in San Francisco, offered support to Eliseo Medina and the other fasters saying, “We hear you. The whole country is with you.”

During the 30 day fast, participants were visited by President Obama and the First Lady, Vice President Joe Biden, President Obama’s Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, Secretary Tom Vilsack, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, former NAACP President Ben Jealous, Reverend Jesse Jackson and several members of Congress who offered support and solidarity with Fast for Families.

McCullough said he is praying that “the hearts of decision makers might soften so that they might truly listen and hear the devastating struggle of our immigrant brothers and sisters.”

Media Contacts


Lesley Crosson, (212)870-2676, media@cwsglobal.org
Sydney Traynham, (703) 909-6984, straynham@cwsglobal.org

Fast for Families:

Tyler Prell, 202-701-5796, tyler.prell@seiu.org
Casey Schoeneberger, 202-569-4254, cschoeneberger@faithinpubliclife.org