Hunger strikes and fasts have been used to further political and social causes for centuries. From the early Christians to Gandhi and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., swearing off eating has proven to be an effective form of nonviolent civil disobedience, and now immigration reform advocates are using the idea to bring greater attention to their cause.
Californians engaging in a different kind of diet
California has long been known for its health and fitness fads. But when a group of protesters in the state began a hunger strike recently, their motivation had nothing to do with losing weight. Instead, they were attempting to pressure California lawmakers into passing immigration reform measures through Congress.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is the third-most powerful member of the House Republican caucus and he has been one of the staunchest opponents of immigration reform. Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., has joined in that opposition, and now both of them are the targets of the hunger strikes.
Hunger strikes spread across the country
The strikes, which began in New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., before coming to California, were initiated by the immigration reform organizations CASA in Action and America’s Voice, along with several religious groups and unions. And, according to the MintPress News, the plan is to spread the hunger strikes to other areas of the country, including Omaha, Neb., and Phoenix.
Known as “Fast for Families,” the hunger strike operation is intended to be a 40-day action that will pressure Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform measures, including a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented workers currently living in the U.S. and the federal DREAM Act, before the end of 2013.
“We will not stand for politics as usual when families are being torn apart. We are prepared to risk and put our bodies on the line until Congress puts all 11 million aspiring Americans on the path to citizenship,” organizers said in a statement.