By Jesse Sabala
Since Nov. 12, activists have been fasting on the National Mall in Washington D.C. as part of Fast for Families, a movement that aims to send a message to Congress that the immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed. Jesse Sabala, a food service worker at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, recently traveled as part of an SEIU delegation to D.C. to participate. This is his account of the trip.
When I received the call to go to D.C. I was excited for the opportunity to help in any way I could. Immigration reform is near and dear to my heart. Being in the healthcare field, my co-workers represent a wide range of nationalities. In many ways, I feel it is a social obligation to help my brothers and sisters who work so hard for all the citizens of United States and care in the utmost loving ways for the many people they encounter.
We went to the Capitol where we met up with the fasters and heard their story. There we met SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Eliseo Medina, who is taking part in the fast. He told us about families ripped apart when the parents were deported and how his fasting is a commitment to true reform. We also saw a collection of items left behind by nameless immigrants who didn’t survive their trip through the Sonoran desert in pursuit of the “American Dream.” It was a humbling experience for all of us.
Together with Phath Thammevangkhun from Kaiser Modesto, and Bonita Munoz, a home care worker from Sonoma County, we went to the offices of various Representatives to lobby for H.R. 15, a bill that would create a path to citizenship for immigrants and protect the rights of families and workers. It was a great opportunity to learn how to have a proper political discussion with congressional staff, and I also learned a lot about how to handle acute political situations.
I was very pleased and grateful to work with and meet all of the members of SEIU present for this event. While I am disappointed in our Congress for not moving forward on commonsense immigration reform, I will continue to push for it. Immigration reform is not just any issue, it is a human rights issue.
You can help bring attention to this issue by participating in the National Days to Act, Fast and Pray, which will run December 1-3. During this time, you can sign our petition, make your own commitment to fast or contact your member of Congress to ask him or her to support commonsense immigration reform that will protect the rights of families and workers.