Thirty Long Islanders fasted at the Masjid Darul Qur’an mosque in Bay Shore over the weekend to show solidarity with protestors nationwide that have been urging Congress to pass immigration reform legislation.
The group was supporting activists called Fast for Families who are entering their fourth week of fasting at the National Mall outside the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., where the immigration bill languishes in the House of Representatives.
“The American people understand that immigration reform is a positive step for our country,” said Janette Farfan, an organizer with Latino-issues advocacy group Make The Road New York. “We also already have the votes to pass a bill. The inaction of our political system is inexcusable while our families suffer.”
A comprehensive immigration reform bill that would create a path to citizenship for more than 11 million immigrants has passed the U.S. Senate and supporters say there are enough votes for it to pass the lower chamber, but House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has not brought it up for a vote there.
“It’s not just a physical fast,” Farfan explained, “but also a symbolic fast. It is the hunger of my community for a life of respect and dignity.”
The group also shared their families’ experiences as immigrants—sometimes becoming one of the estimated 1,100 immigrants deported daily. Farfan recalled how her mother, an immigrant from Ecuador, had been detained when the factory where she worked was raided by federal agents the day before she was due for a major surgery. After two days, Farfan’s mother was able to return home and eventually became a US citizen—despite how increasingly difficult that has become after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
“This has been a struggle for our family for the last 35 years,” she said as her voice filled with emotion. “I bear witness while immigrants like my sister-in-law are exploited and live day in and day out with anxiety about their immigration status.”
President Obama has said he would sign immigration reform into law if it passes. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), the lone GOP member of the LI congressional delegation, has also expressed support for the bill.
“As far as if we do have security—and I feel that it’s never going to be 100 percent—but as close to full security as possible for the future, then I believe we should legalize those that are here,” King said in June.
Farfan is confident that immigration reform will inevitably pass.
“Reform is alive and well,” she said. “I know this because we are united. It’s only a matter of time.”