BY JOE MARVILLI
As gridlock continues in Washington D.C. and the immigration reform bill passed by the U.S. Senate collects dust in the House of Representatives, some community leaders have taken to fasting in the hopes of progress on immigration. S.J. Jung is one such community leader.
Jung, the president of the Flushing-based MinKwon Center for Community Action, spent the middle of November fasting at the National Mall in support of immigration reform. Jung, along with many other immigrant rights leaders, abstained from all food, except water, in an attempt to “touch the hearts and minds of the members of Congress” and get them to pass an immigration bill.
While an immigration reform bill passed the Senate in June, it has languished in the House of Representatives since then, with little time left in this year’s session for a vote.
The Senate bill offers undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship. Young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children would be able to earn green cards in five years.
Jung started his participation on Nov. 17 as part of the “Fast for Families” campaign. Organized by the Service Employees International Union, participants from various immigrant, labor and faith organizations joined together in tents in front of the Capitol building in Washington D.C.
The 47-year-old emigrated from Korea 27 years ago and said he underwent his fast as both an immigrant and as an American.
“I was there to protest the political gridlock, but not by raising my voice, but in the more humble way of fasting. That was one small way for me to share the pain of the immigrants in our nation’s broken immigrant system. We’re talking about the tragedy of family separation,” Jung said. “I was also there as an American. I believe immigration reform is not only a moral imperative but an economic imperative.”
Jung was forced to break his fast after eight days due to severe stomach pain.
Many high-ranking elected officials visited the tent where the fasters stayed, including President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) and U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing).
Jung said that many of the elected officials who met with the fasters recommitted to passing immigration reform. The fasters also visited House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) office with a letter asking for a vote on reform. While the Speaker said the immigration bill is not dead and the House is working on it, Jung said more is needed than just words.
“They voted to repeal Obamacare 42 times. When it comes to immigration reform, they can’t bring it to vote even once? It doesn’t make sense to me,” he said. “We have the votes. If the bill is brought to the floor, it will pass.”
The MinKwon Center is encouraging those in support of immigration reform to call Boehner’s office at (202) 225-0600, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Virginia) office at (202) 225-2815 and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy’s (R-California) office at (202) 225-2915.
“Each and every poll clearly shows an absolutely majority is very supportive of immigration reform,” Jung said. “We will continue our campaign. We should end the 21st century Trail of Tears.”
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Joey788.