ATLANTA--Immigration rights activists who started a food fast in Los Angeles a month ago brought their campaign to Atlanta to demand immigration reform that would provide a path for citizenship for an estimated 11 million people now considered illegal in this country.
Eliseo Medina was flanked by a rainbow coalition of supporters for the March 26 “Fast for Families” demonstration at the steps of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church on Auburn Avenue.
“We cannot afford to have more people die on the border because there is no legal way to get here, except for working in the dessert in the heat of the day and the cold of night,” said Medina, a former international Union executive. “We cannot afford to have more families torn apart and more children made orphans because of deportation. That’s not the America we all love. We are a better people than that.”
As Medina brought his campaign to Atlanta, Congressman Hank Johnson, who represents Georgia’s Fourth District, was among dozens of legislators who signed a petition on the same day in Washington, D.C. demanding a vote on H.R. 15. For months, the Republican Party, headed by House Speaker John Boehner, has blocked the bi-partisan legislation for immigration reform. The bill has 200 co-sponsors.
Said Johnson: “It is time for Speaker Boehner to stop blocking this sensible bipartisan reform, and allow a vote to create jobs, empower our small businesses, fuel innovation, reduce the deficit and energize the economy. It is time for us to fix our broken immigration system, and build a system that respects our history and our values as a nation.”
State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta), who joined Medina and other activists at Ebenezer for the demonstration, said it’s time for Congress to act.
“The time has come. This movement for freedom, justice and equality for immigrants is tied directly to the movement for civil rights. Dr. King’s dream of freedom, justice and equality is a dream that lives on to this very hour,” Fort said. “We are a nation of immigrants. We are going to tell Speaker Boehner to move out of the way. We know that Fasting for Families, the dreamers, are on the right side of history. ”
Medina said his group’s fight is similar to the Civil Rights Movement.
“There are parallels between the Civil Rights Movement and the Immigrant Rights Movement. We believe that we are the heirs of the struggle for social justice in the country,” said Medina, who has worked alongside labor leader and Hispanic civil rights activist Cesar Chavez. “We take the tactics of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s non-violent, but still effective procedures with us as we travel the nation.”
Medina started the “Fast For Families” tour on Feb. 24 in Los Angeles. He and other activists who joined the campaign have gone without food since they started the fast. They have survived off of water alone. He says the campaign plans to visit more than 100 Congressional districts in 32 states by April 9.
Fast for Families also has another group traveling a northern trip, making stops in states such as Illinois and New York.
Cobb County Police Chief Captain Jerry L. Quan said this project is critical for the future of America. Quann is a fourth-generation decedent of a “paper son.” The term refers to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which made it nearly impossible for Chinese to immigrate to the United States. During the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s, many immigrants from China arrived in the United States with purchased or forged citizenships. Those who utilized this method to enter the U.S. were known as “paper sons.”
“Many of our leaders and our own community members are here as descendants of people who came her undocumented or what was ‘illegal’ at the time. I serve this country proudly and the fact is, so much of America’s history was built from the work of immigrants from all different ethnic groups,” said Quan, who has more than 30 years of service to the country between the police force and the military. “Immigration reform needs to happen now. We must come together on this. We hope Congress can come together on this soon. This issue matters to all of us. ”