Immigration: New Fasters Join Campaign For Comprehensive Reform

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[Immigration: Commentary]

After 22 days of a water-only fast on the National Mall, four long-term fasters of the “Fast for Families” announced an expansion of the action as they passed the fast on to a group of prominent faith leaders and activists who will continue to highlight the moral dimension and human tragedies caused by our broken immigration system.

At a ceremony in front of the U.S. Capitol, the four long-term fasters, Eliseo Medina of SEIU, Cristian Avila of Mi Familia Vota, Dae Joong Yoon of NAKASEC and Lisa Sharon Harper of Sojourners, were led to the stage by Bernice King, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, Representative Joe Kennedy, Co-Founder of the United Farm Workers Dolores Huerta, Reverend Joel Hunter and Pastor Mike McLenahan.

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, led the ceremony during which Father Jacek Ozechowski provided the fasters with blessed bread as they gave the crosses they have worn for the last 22 days to the new fasters.

The new fasters are Reverend Jim Wallis of Sojourners, Philip Agnew of Dream Defenders, Reverend Eun-sang Lee, Board member of NAKASEC and Pastor at First United Methodist Church in Salt Lake City, Utah, Stephan Bauman, President and CEO of World Relief, Ciara Taylor of Dream Defenders, Reverend Gabriel Salguero, President of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition and Representative Joe Kennedy. Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religion Action Center of Reform Judaism has also joined the fast but could not attend the ceremony.

Following the ceremony, Reverend Al Sharpton offered a closing prayer.

The “Fast for Families” has captured the attention of the national political establishment and gathered the support of labor, religious, political and civil rights leaders, including President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama who recently made a surprise visit to the faster’s tent. Thousands of advocates and organizations around the country, such as the National Education Association (NEA), Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), Center for Community Change (CCC), NCAPA Asian American and Pacific Islander Immigration Table have joined the fasters in support.

Bios of the new fasters:Joseph P. Kennedy III serves the Fourth District of Massachusetts in Congress.

Having dedicated his career to public service, Joe brings a firm commitment to social justice and economic opportunity to the U.S. House of Representatives. Elected in November of 2012, he represents a diverse district that spans from the suburbs of Boston to the more industrial towns of Massachusetts’ South Coast.

Selected by Newsweek magazine in 2009 as the most influential rabbi in the country and described in a Washington Post profile as the "quintessential religious lobbyist on Capitol Hill," Rabbi David Saperstein has been the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism for more than 35 years. Also an attorney, Rabbi Saperstein teaches seminars in First Amendment Church-State Law and Jewish Law at Georgetown University Law School. He serves on the board of numerous national organizations, including the NAACP, People for the American Way, and the World Bank's World Faith Development Dialogue. In 1999, he was elected the first Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. In 2009, he was appointed by President Obama as a member of the first White House Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Prior to becoming CEO of World Relief in 2011, Stephan Bauman served as Senior Vice President of Programs. Before joining World Relief as the Country Director for Rwanda in 2005, he served as Director of International Programs for World Hope International, leading relief and development work in 25 countries in the agriculture, education, economic development, anti-trafficking and health sectors. As Director of Programs and Training for Mercy Ships International from 1994-2001, Stephan oversaw medical, water and sanitation, health and capacity-building programs in West Africa. Prior to joining the non-profit sector, he worked at Andersen & Co, consulting on mergers and acquisitions, legal matters, treaties, and tax issues for Fortune 500 companies. Stephan is a CPA and an ordained minister. He holds a Master of International Public Policy from Johns Hopkins University, a Master of Intercultural Studies from Wheaton College Graduate School and a Bachelor of Arts in Business from the University of Wisconsin.

Jim Wallis is President and Founder of Sojourners and editor-in-chief of Sojourners magazine, whose combined print and electronic media have a readership of more than 250,000 people. A bestselling author, public theologian, and frequent speaker on faith and public life, He has written ten books, including the New York Times bestseller God's Politics.  His most recent book, On God's Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn't Learned about Serving the Common Good, was released in April 2013. His columns appear in major newspapers and blogs, and he regularly appears as a television and radio commentator.

Gabriel Salguero is president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, a powerful voice on issues that affect Latino communities in the United States. Focusing on poverty, immigration, and education, Salguero’s leadership of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NaLEC) offers an important voice for growing diversity and changing demographics in our country. He has been named as one of the most prominent Latino evangelical leaders by the Huffington Post, the Center for American Progress, El Diario, and Jorge Ramos’ Al Punto. In addition to his work with the Circle of Protection—a consortium of faith groups that seek to preserve social programs that help the poor—and his strong calls for immigration reform, Salguero, through his organization, founded Nuestro Futuro, a Latino youth-targeted voter-mobilization campaign in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Arizona, New York, and New Jersey in 2012. He is also a member of the Evangelical Immigration Table. His writing is featured on both The Washington Post 'On Faith," and the Huffington Post's Religion blogs. Salguero with his wife, the Rev. Jeanette Salguero, are the co-lead pastors of the multi-ethnic Lamb’s Church in NY.  The Lamb’s Church worships in three languages—English, Spanish, and Mandarin. They have two beautiful sons, Jon-Gabriel and Seth who are their pride and joy.

Rev. Eun-sang Lee (Salt Lake City, UT) is a pastor at the First United Methodist Church of Salt Lake City, UT. He immigrated to the United States from South Korea in 1978 and became active in social justice and international human rights issues as a member of Young Koreans United. As a board member of NAKASEC (National Korean American Service & Education Consortium), he has written about the moral urgency for immigration reform and participated in national actions organized through the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) and Church World Service. Reverend Lee graduated from the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, CO (Master of Divinity), was ordained by the United Methodist Church in 1993, and has served at inner-city churches in Colorado and Utah. He is promotes his passion for multiculturalism, social justice and inter-faith collaboration through his urban ministry.

Phillip Agnew is a native of Chicago, IL, and a 2008 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Business and Industry, where he served as Student Body President, and member of the University Board of Trustees and Faculty Senate.

His life was changed when he became an organizer with the Student Coalition for Justice: a cadre of students from Florida A&M University, Florida State University, and Tallahassee Community College angered at the murder of Martin Lee Anderson in a Florida Youth Boot Camp.  After the murder of Trayvon Martin, he returned to Florida to work as Executive Director with the Dream Defenders, a network of black, brown, and poor youth and students across the State of Florida fighting criminalization and for equal rights for the next generation of black, brown and poor youth.  This Summer, they held a 31 day occupation of Florida’s State House demanding the passing of “Trayvon’s Law.”  They are building on 8 campuses across the state of Florida for the passing of this Act and are moving to register and engage 61,550 before 2014.

Ciara Taylor serves the Dream Defenders as the Political Director. The Dream Defenders is a civil rights organization directed by black and brown youth who are committed to ending systemic oppression in Florida by training and organizing youth and students in nonviolent civil disobedience, civic engagement, and direct action while creating a sustainable network of youth and student leaders to take action and create real change in their communities.

Ciara previously served the Southern Poverty Law Center as the Community Outreach Liaison for Juvenile Justice and as the state Voter Registration Coordinator for the League of Women Voters.

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