By Cherri Gregg
SPRINGFIELD (Delaware County), Pa. (CBS) — “Fast for Families” is a movement for immigration reform that started at the Capitol in DC last fall.
Now they are taking the show on the road, in a decorated bus, making stops in the Greater Philadelphia area.
A small but enthusiastic group of protesters stood outside of US Rep. Pat Meehan’s office in Springfield (Delaware County) today, holding signs and demanding that he “get off the fence” by voting for comprehensive immigration reform.
“We’ve been calling on people to fast because now is the time,” said Lisa Sharon Harper (at lectern in photo), who works for the DC-based Sojourners.
Harper says she and many others fasted for 22 days last November just feet from the US Capitol. And she says their effort caused lawmakers to come to their tent and listen to the stories of immigrants.
Harper says the response encouraged “Fast for Families” to take their effort on the road to spread the word.
“We have now commissioned the country to take up the fast, including 150 counties across the country and over 70 Congressional districts,” she said.
Labor and faith groups — including labor union SEIU, the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, and Sisters of Mercy — say immigration reform will stop worker abuse and unite families.
“These people are suffering and all these people want to do is take care of their families and build a better life,” said Cynthia Peters, a member of SEIU 32BJ and an immigrant from Trinidad. She says she came to the US with a green card so she never had to live in the shadows, yet understands the plight of undocumented immigrants.
“They live in fear and never know what the next day will bring,” she said. “A broken system allows immigrant workers to be exploited. The bosses know they can get away with paying them less and treating them poorly.”
“We know we have a broken immigration system when 5,100 children who are US citizens have been put in foster care because their parents have been deported,” says Sister Mary Beth Hamm, of Sisters of Mercy and “Nuns on the Bus.”
A spokesperson for Rep. Meehan said in a statement:
“Congressman Meehan believes America is a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws, and we must respect both by fixing our nation’s broken immigration system. The House is moving forward in a thoughtful, transparent process to pass bipartisan reforms to fix our broken immigration system, starting with securing America’s borders. Rep. Meehan will continue working to secure our borders once and for all and create a working legal immigration system that doesn’t encourage lawbreaking.”
Fast for Families made stops in Exton, Norristown, and Villanova.