Villanova student organizer Morgan Gruenewald wrote about her experience meeting the “Fast for Families” team when they visited her school. Morgan is now leading an effort to collect student-signed postcards supporting reform which will be delivered to Rep. Patrick Meehan’s office before the end of spring semester. Here is what Morgan had to say about the tour’s stop at Villanova:
As a student, an American citizen, and a person of faith, I am proud to be a very new member of a vibrant, passionate, and important movement to reform the way our country addresses immigration. I find it disappointing that I still feel compelled to use the word: “addresses.” I wish that I confidently say that our country embraces immigration, but I still feel that that is far from the truth. Too many view the need for comprehensive immigration reform as a political option, rather than the humanitarian crisis and the moral duty that it is.
Despite the reluctance of several key players to consider immigration reform in a meaningful way, I am continually inspired by the work of activists, faith leaders, DREAMers, and students to advocate for immigrant families. As a newcomer to this movement, and I wasn’t sure what to expect last week when asking students to sign advocacy postcards for the first time. The response far exceeded my expectations, as students volunteered to share their stories and to take the time to write out personal messages. This is obviously a very local example, but there are broader narratives as well, including the solidarity fasts of Fast for Families and other immigrant rights groups, the barrage of lobby visits, and the mass at the border last week. Everywhere, every day, there is real, inspiring work being done to bring immigration to the forefront not only of the political agenda, but of the public conscience.
Through my work, I have come to realize a platform for immigration advocacy that revolves around two concepts– compassion and enlightened self-interest. Although I borrowed this framework from an anti-poverty economist, Paul Collier, I still believe it applies very well to the need for comprehensive immigration reform. Compassion is a vague concept, but I like to think of it as a recognition of the inherent dignity of every person. Recognizing and respecting human dignity necessitates that we confront and eliminate structures that rob individuals of their dignity, namely, the current immigration system that has been the root of so many broken families, deaths in the desert, and unrecognized potential. Enlightened self-interest is another ambiguous concept, but in this case it simply means recognizing the tangible benefits of comprehensive immigration reform. As I mentioned, there is no reason that our country should not embrace its immigrant population. Beyond the fact that immigrants do wonderful things for our economy, they revitalize and renew communities, and the positive effect that immigrants have on the lives of everyone they touch is truly immeasurable.
At this event, clergy and students from other nearby Catholic colleges and universities, including Cabrini College, Neumann University, and St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia traveled to Villanova to take part in this event.
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When “Fast for Families” tour rolled into Cincinnati, students from the University of Dayton made a trip to meet up with the bus. University of Dayton student Abigail Lambert wrote about her experience, as well as her school’s continuing work around immigration reform.
On the rainy Saturday morning of March 29, three University of Dayton students braved the elements to support the “Fast for Families Across America” bus as it arrived at Xavier University.
The “Fast for Families” bus tour calls for immigration reform to be voted on and passed in Congress. They spread the message of DREAMers and the need for new immigration laws. There have been “Fast for Families” rallies in cities all over the country, sharing DREAMers’ stories and letting Congress know that immigration issues are important, and immigration reform has widespread support from constituents.
On Saturday, after songs, clapping and cheering, a DREAMer spoke about her experience as an immigrant in the United States. She gave a moving speech about getting through college in spite of the hardships of immigration. Her name is Fabiola, and the Flyers for Immigration Reform movement has contacted her to speak again at the University of Dayton in April.
In the week leading up to the rally in Cincinnati, Flyers for Immigration Reform was very active, spreading the F4F message, urging Congressman Mike Turner to support immigration reform legislation and praying the rosary for the group. The previous Wednesday, 20 students, faculty and alums fasted in solidarity with immigrants and in preparation of the tour stopping in Cincinnati.
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The “Fast for Families” bus made a stop at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. Two of the student organizers there, Mariel Rodruguez and Grace Johnson, wrote a post for us about their experience planning and taking part in this stop on the tour. Here’s what they wrote:
In the midst of mid-terms and excitement for the upcoming spring break, students and faculty from Gonzaga University joined community members to stand in solidarity for immigration reform. Around noon on March 7, the university welcomed the “Fast for Families Across America” bus tour on the steps of the Crosby Student Center.
Fasters Dae Joong and Rudy Lopez shared their stories and experiences as they reached 22 days of fasting. Their powerful words and their passion for immigration reform were heard by students walking by, encouraging them to take a moment to listen. To make this experience close to our hearts, a Gonzaga sophomore, Manny Lopez, talked about growing up in a household with an undocumented mom and sisters. Here’s a video of Manny telling his story:
The event closed with prayer, and Rudy Lopez created a call to action: to fast each Wednesday during Lent, whether it was one meal or all meals.
The group met again later that evening. The audience consisted of students, University Ministry, Spokane community members and a group that came from Mattawa, Washington. Members of the “Fast for Families” tour talked more about their time on the road and the stories they have heard. Gonzaga student Mariel Rodriguez spoke about being an organizer on campus, and the difficulties and beauties of educating and advocating for change.
Bishop Blasé Joseph Cupich spoke in Spanish and in English about his commitment to this change. After the speeches, the crowd began chanting, and finished off with dancing to the mariachi band that played beautiful music.
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On Monday, March 24, the “Fast for Families Across America” bus rolled into South Bend, Indiana as part of an 14,000 mile cross-country journey for citizenship and immigration reform.
Two Notre Dame students, Jessica Pedroza and Christian Myers, have been leading efforts on campus through ND’s Student Coalition for Immigration Advocacy. From fasting for 24 hours in solidarity with “Fast for Families,” to organizing ‘Immigration Week’ on Notre Dame’s campus, to traveling to Chicago to join the Student Summit for Immigration Reform, they have a great record mobilizing their fellow Catholic students to stand up for humane immigration reform. Both Jessica and Christian joined local leaders at a “Fast for Families” community meeting at Little Flower Church in South Bend. The duo spoke movingly to the crowd assembled about the urgent need for immigration reform and ways this issue has touched their own lives. Here’s what they said:
“The nation has joined the fasting efforts in support of comprehensive immigration reform, including students from Notre Dame, and we all have our reasons for fasting. I chose to fast because living in fear of deportation is not the way to live. Years ago, when my family drove to Mexico to visit extended family, I saw white crosses all over the border representing those who have died on their way to a better life. People leave their lives in their home country and sacrifice everything to come here. Some bring their children out of love—for them to receive an education, for them to have opportunities…Those of us who are not DREAMers and who do not happen to live in limbo like 11 million others, have the responsibility to fight for them, to fast for them, to pray for them. These are our relatives, our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers, our classmates, our business leaders. When we fast, we are hungry for food, but what we are far hungrier for is immigration reform.”
-Jessica Pedroza, Notre Dame freshman originally from Phoenix, Arizona
“In our solidarity fast, 26 members of the Notre Dame community elected to each engage in a water-only fast for 24 consecutive hours during the week of Dec. 2nd through 6th. It was truly powerful to come together in this experience and simultaneously be united with other fast groups around the country…It is my hope that our Congress will look at the “Fast for Families” effort and the numerous other examples of support for our immigrant brothers and sisters, documented and undocumented, “skilled” and “unskilled,” sick and healthy, old and young, regardless of their country of origin, and do everything in their power to enact much-needed reform. Whether you are guided by God, morality, civic duty, or some other ideal, you should be able to recognize that it is our system that is broken and therefore it’s up to us to fix it. And…the time to fix it is now.”
- Christian Myers, Notre Dame student and organizer of Notre Dame’s solidarity fast
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For me, Lent is always a powerful time of reflection and prayer on self-sacrifice. Those who strive to build the beloved Community bring new life out of the ashes of sin and brokenness.
Last winter the “Fast for Families” movement put immigration reform back on Congress’ agenda. This month faith, immigration and labor leaders launched “Fast for Families Across America, a seven week bus tour that will visit 75 Congressional districts to help change the hearts and minds of members of Congress who continue to oppose long overdue immigration reform. Twenty-eight Catholic college and university presidents who fasted on Ash Wednesday reflected: “As we begin this sacred season and remember Christ’s journey of suffering the desert wilderness we pray for immigrants who hunger and thirst for justice.” You can sign up to join the fast here.
Fighting for family wages
Yesterday as I stood with faith leaders and U.S Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) to call for raising the minimum wage, I met a mom who reminded me of the sacrifices mothers and families are making in an economy that fails to honor their work with living wages. The prophet Isaiah said, “My chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands,” yet today millions of workers cannot enjoy the fruit of their labor by seeing their families thrive.
A bold rebuke in Arizona
Last week evangelical leaders issued a statement boldly calling on their own communities to oppose legislation like Arizona’s SB 1062, which would have discriminated against gay people in the name of religious freedom. Their statementsaid in part: “We believe that the current position that many Evangelical leaders are taking on issues of discrimination toward the gay community directly contradict that posture of radical love and grace that Jesus so powerfully embodied in his life and teachings.” As other states consider similar bills, they will have to contend with strong opposition across the religious spectrum.
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