Congressional Democrats join hunger strikes

The long-running series of fasts that have been organized across the country, which are designed to bring greater attention to the issue of immigration reform, are entering a new phase.

As immigrants’ right activists have started to end their three-week long fasts and protests, many of which took place in a tent located near the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., a new group has taken up their cause. In a show of solidarity with the activists, a group of politicians, including Joseph Kennedy III, D-Mass., have started their own hunger strikes.

Continuing a family tradition
For Joseph Kennedy III, the fight for immigration reform is a family tradition. His grandfather, the late Robert Kennedy, was one of the first national politicians to bring attention to immigrant rights’ activist Cesar Chavez’s 25-day hunger strike in 1968, when he did so during his run for president. And Joseph’s great uncle, the longtime Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, was a consistent supporter of immigration reform.

That makes Joseph’s decision to take up the hunger strike where many of the protesters left off a matter of family legacy. While he will only go on the water-only diet for 24 hours – many of the protesters have been doing the same for days or weeks – he is using it as an opportunity to bring more publicity to the issue of reform.

“Immigration reform is something that’s been important to my family,” Kennedy said in a statement. “At this point, we need to get some movement on this bill and whatever we can do to try to break the logjam is important, so I want to be a part of it.”

Kennedy was far from the only Democratic member of Congress to pledge to fast for a full day, though. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and two representatives from Minnesota, Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum, will also go without food for 24 hours.