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Update from Fast for our Families: Breaking Our Fast and Continuing Our Struggle…

January 17, 2010

Subhash Kateel writes for the Fast for Our Families:

Today marks the 17th day since we started the Fast for Our Families, entering St. Ann’s Catholic Mission in Naranja, Florida. On New Year’s Day we vowed to only consume liquids until President Obama heard the voice of all families being torn apart by this broken immigration system. We made this promise as humble people in a community devastated by raids, detentions, and deportations. We made this promise as people forced to endure the daily phone calls about someone’s family being deported. We have been deported ourselves, and survived the desert just to see our children again. We have seen the government telling us that our families don’t deserve to be together. We have been detained in jails, and detention centers, and humiliated into wearing electronic shackles. We have been treated as if we are not human.

On New Year’s Day we decided that our government must recognize our humanity. We did this in the only way we know how, by our own personal sacrifice. We sacrificed our bodies for the sake of our families and millions like us around the country. We did this so that the government would respond to the cries of our children that need their parents, of our husbands that need their wives, and of our mothers that need their children. Three of us were sent to the hospital. We understood the risks, and still we persevered.

Our community saw our sacrifice and responded with their support. People from all over Florida would visit us, pray with us, and bring us blankets and water. People from all over the country – New Hampshire, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, California, Wisconsin, and Kansas – responded to our sacrifice by fasting in solidarity, sometimes for one day, sometimes for ten days. This solidarity and support was the only food we had for more that two weeks. We dedicated some of that sacrifice to our brothers and sisters in Haiti, and to their families here.

Unfortunately, our sacrifice did not bring a just response from our President or his Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano. In part, this was surely because he was focused on helping our Haitian brothers and sisters, but that focus did not stop ICE from detaining more people or separating more families this week. A parishioner of St. Ann’s, our home for 17 days, was detained just days ago. Our Secretary of Homeland Security was less than a mile away from St. Ann’s yesterday. Despite a request from one of Miami’s most respected Haitian leaders, Marleine Bastien, she declined to reach out to us.

On this day, January 17, we have decided to end our fast. After watching the suffering of our Haitian brothers and sisters, and seeing the determination of the Department of Homeland Security to ignore the voices of immigrant families fighting to stay together, we must continue our struggle in a different way, but the Fast for Our Families will not end. We are asking others to continue our struggle and to take on our sacrifice in the name of the millions of immigrant families like ours. In the coming weeks, we will take our struggle directly to Washington, DC. On January 27, those of us that can travel freely will be at the steps of the Department of Homeland Security. We are asking for your continued commitment and sacrifice to keep all of our families together and our communities strong, from Naranja to New York and from the US to Haiti.

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