A hunger strike by immigration reform activists that began 22 days ago at the National Mall in Washington has mobilized advocates in California.
Pro-immigration reform activists with a group called the Kern Coalition for Citizens will begin on Tuesday an 11-day sit-in at the Bakersfield office of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the majority whip and third-ranking House Republican. They plan to stay there until Dec. 13, when the House is scheduled to hold its last session this year.
In a show of solidarity with those fasting in the nation's capital, the Bakersfield group plans to hold its own fast on Dec. 12. A call by Fast for Families in D.C. to have national days of fasting will end today. But several activists who have been abstaining from food since Nov. 12 said that they will continue to do so until they can no longer survive on only water.
“The issue of immigration reform affects 11 million people,” Rob England, a Bakersfield native and vice president of the Kern, Inyo, and Mono Central Labor Council, said. “With such huge stakes on the line it’s necessary to show our solidarity with fasters in D.C.”
England said they’ve decided to stage the sit-in because a few weeks ago, he and his colleagues attempted to drop off a letter at McCarthy’s office but were, he said, kept out.
“All we wanted to do was to deliver a letter to him and have our voice heard,” England added. “And unfortunately he decided to duck and hide on us. No congressman should ever lock out his voters.”
The aim of their protest is to remind lawmakers that immigration isn’t just about politics, but people. Participants will engage McCarthy’s voters, canvas his district, and tell them “how Congressman McCarthy is blocking reform from happening this year.”
Last month, McCarthy told advocates there will be no votes in the House on immigration this year because time won’t allow it. The Republican-led House is still taking a piecemeal approach to reform; a comprehensive bill passed by the Democratic-led Senate lingers in the chamber.
Several activists have asked House Republicans to call a vote on the measure, and have since resorted to using nonviolent protest to pressure Congress to act.
“It’s been months since the Senate passed an immigration measure,” said Kathy Ko Chin, president and CEO of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, who will fast for 24 hours on Dec. 7. “But, so far the House has not voted on that effort, leaving the country in limbo on this critical issue. Congress can no longer ignore the needs of the millions of immigrant families. Immigration reform cannot wait.”