Washington’s Top Bi-Partisan Immigration Decision Makers Meet with 100 Women Fasters

April 8, 2014


Leslie Patterson, 646-200-5326

Women more determined than ever to pressure leaders to pass immigration reform and stop deportations

[Washington, DC] – A day without food has only increased the determination of the 100 women who arrived yesterday morning to start a 48-hour fast to show the kind of courage federal leaders must find to move immigration reform and stop deportations. Today, fasters—including those who current face deportation themselves—will meet with the Department of Homeland Security as well as additional members of Congress.

In day one of their two-day fast, the women were visited by some of Washington’s top decision makers on immigration. Their morning launch included Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard who told the group “all we need is a vote in the House—we would have enough members to pass immigration reform.” The launch was followed by a procession to the Capitol where women carried signs that read “Missing: Courage” and dropped them off at the offices of Congressmen Boehner, Cantor and McCarthy, who have repeatedly blocked progress of the bill in the House. Later that day, key Republican members of the House including Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) came to address the tent. Ros-Lehtinen, who has spoken often about immigration as a women’s issue, reiterated her commitment to immigration reform. Just hours after her visit to the women fasters, she cast her vote to bring HR15—the bipartisan immigration reform bill—as an amendment to the floor for a vote, the first Republican to do so.

Diaz-Balart told the crowd that he is “more convinced than he ever has been, that we are close to passing immigration legislation. I’m convinced it can happen this year.” Women fasters broke frequently into chants of “Voto, Voto, Voto”—urging him to work with his Republican colleagues to bring an immigration bill to a vote.

Later in the evening, Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama, and Cecilia Munoz, Domestic Policy Council Director, had a one-hour meeting with the group and heard painful stories from women who face deportation themselves or in their families. Guillermina Castellanos shared that she is fasting for her 5-year old granddaughter’s father who was deported when he was mistaken for someone else and detained. “She believes her father abandoned her when there’s nothing he wants more than to be with her.”

Fasters pushed both Jarrett and Munoz on what President Obama can do to stop the deportations. “What is your plan to end the suffering?” asked Yamilex Rustrian, a DREAMer who has received her DACA status after thanking the President for helping her but said, “It is impossible to live when we still worry about our parents who are living in the shadows.”

“We are so close to getting immigration reform,” said Jarrett. “That’s why what you are doing is so important.” When pressed on their plans to stop deportations, the White House advisors stopped short of making promises. “You are our moral force, and we will take that with us,” said Munoz after listening to personal stories of deportation from several of the women.

Fasters left the conversation more determined than ever to continue pushing for reform, and an end to deportations. “Every day, more than a thousand people are deported. Congress must do their job—stop blocking progress and pass humane immigration reform. And the President must model leadership for the House by providing immediate relief for families facing deportations. In this tent alone, the stories are too much to bear. It cannot continue,” said Pramila Jayapal of We Belong Together.

The meetings proved that the voices of women will be heard by decision-makers in Washington, but the fasters are aware that the road ahead may be long and uncertain. “It’s day two, and we’re full of courage but hungry for justice,” said Kica Matos, of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement. “The hungrier we are, the more determined we will be.”


About the Women’s Fast for Families
This fast is a culmination of the Women’s Fast for Families, a month-long series of nationwide 24-hours fasts sponsored by We Belong Together. The Women’s Fast for Families grew from a national women’s summit held in February, where women leaders pledged to continue to highlight immigration reform as a women’s issue and to pushback on inaction on reform as a front of the War on Women. The Women’s Fast for Families is a collaboration of We Belong Together, the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) and SEIU.

About We Belong Together
We Belong Together is a national campaign to bring forward the priorities of women in immigration reform, and to mobilize women to push for immigration reform that: includes a clear path to citizenship; keeps families together and upholds the family immigration system; protects survivors of violence; prevents workplace abuses; promotes the health and wellbeing of women and children; honors women’s work inside and outside the home; and is not driven by enforcement. We Belong Together is co-anchored by the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, with the participation of women’s organizations, immigrant rights groups, children, and families across the country.