Friday, January 8, 2010

Taking Measure and Taking Action

Dear Friends:

It’s early in the morning of Day 8 of the Fast for Our Families. It’s time to make an evaluation of our successes so far, and our challenges.

First, our grassroots support: Attracted by the spiritual aspect of our fast, groups of Christians, both Catholic and evangelical, have come to pray with us every day, so that God watches over us and intercedes with President Obama and his administration to end the nightmare of family separation. Today at noon, a group of five clergy members will be visiting and holding a press conference to support the fast and call on the administration to act. Barring technical difficulties, you will see the conference on our 12 noon webcast.

We have had lots of visits from members of two grassroots organizations in the South Dade area, the Farmworker Association of Florida and WeCount!, the organization to which I belong. Today, the Farmworker Association is coming to hold a one-day solidarity fast, and tomorrow WeCount! will do the same. We also expect visits today from members of the Miami Workers Center, Sisterhood of Survivors and Unite for Dignity.

There has also been grassroots support in other parts of the country. Deborah de Santos has been on a week-long solidarity fast in New Hampshire. Groups in Texas and Milwaukee are doing solidarity fasts or actions. We have connected with Jean Montrevil, a leader of the New Sanctuary Movement in New York who was detained by ICE, which intends to deport him to Haiti, separating him from his family. We have received messages of support from around the country.

Second, support from the immigrant rights movement: We support the long-term solution of immigration reform that provides a just and humane way for undocumented immigrants to get on the path to citizenship. We want the DREAM Act to pass now – there is no reason it shouldn’t have passed years ago. We are concerned about what’s going to be in the “official” Democratic comprehensive immigration reform bill being prepared that is supposed to be introduced by Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, and the President’s and Congressional leadership’s frigid reaction to a decent bill introduced by Congressman Luis Gutierrez of Chicago.

Yet our fast is not targeting Congress to pass immigration reform; we are directly targeting President Obama and his administration for their policies and practices of promoting separation of immigrant families. There are other efforts doing this as well – the Trail of Dreams, our four brave friends from Students Working for Equal Rights (SWER) in Florida on their walk from Miami to Washington, DC, and the National Day Labor Organizing Network (NDLON) and groups in Maricopa County, Arizona, who are organizing a march on January 16 targeting the Obama administration’s renewal of its 287g agreement with vile racist Sheriff Joe Arpaio. We are doing this, as we have explained elsewhere, because our communities cannot wait. We need an end to the nightmare of early morning raids on homes, police and jails acting as immigration agents, families being ripped apart now. The Obama administration constantly is making concessions to the right, and getting nothing from it. President Obama needs to show immigrants and the immigrant rights movement an act of good faith.

The fast has also gained the support and solidarity from the mainstream immigrant rights movement that has been working so hard to get comprehensive immigration reform passed. The Center for Community Change and Reform Immigration for America have put up a toll-free number for our supporters to call today to contact Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, to urge her to meet with the fasters. We are very grateful for this act of solidarity.

Third, publicity. Our small communications team has done a great job, but the results in the traditional media have been disappointing. In Miami, there has been very brief coverage on Spanish-language TV, coverage by one English-language TV station, and scant mention so far in the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald, although we are expecting something in the Herald on Saturday. Can you imagine this happening if we were on a fast for democracy in Cuba or Venezuela? The more things change in Miami, the more they stay the same. The fast was covered in a great column by Albor Ruiz in the NY Daily News yesterday, along with the unjust detention of Jean Montrevil. We are expecting a comprehensive article in El Sentinel, the (Ft. Lauderdale) Sun-Sentinel’s Spanish-language weekly, tomorrow as well.

The social media coverage has been better, although I’m ill-equipped as a 20th Century man to be able to evaluate this. I’m told we’ve blown up on Twitter; I hope that’s right.

Finally, the political system: Yesterday we received our first visit from an elected official, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Katy Sorenson. She committed to sponsor a county resolution to support our cause. We are waiting for a response from our congressman, Mario Diaz-Balart, a conservative, pro-immigrant Republican, to our request that he visit us and support our cause. We have received no response as yet from our letters to Secretary Napolitano or to President Obama.

On balance, we have a long way to go to move the system, and a short time to do it. So far our health is stable, but we are weaker. We are moved by the support we have received, other actions that the fast has spurred, and believe that it augurs a move to grassroots action by the immigrant rights movement for change now, and calling the President to account.

Let’s leave the discussion of using this tactic of a long-term fast at this time to a later date. The situation moved us to undertake drastic action. Let’s pull together and win. Our communities and thousands of families around the country merit this fight.

Which brings me to a call to action. We have two telephone calls we need you to make TODAY. The first is to Janet Napolitano at 866-587-3023. We want her to be inundated with calls asking her to meet with the fasters and stop the separation of families. Second, call the Miami office of Representative Mario Diaz-Balart at 305-225-6866. Tell him to meet with the fasters and contact Janet Napolitano to request that she meet with the fasters.


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