shutterstock_91039637As I write this, I am enjoying a mug of hot chocolate.  It is the first thing I have consumed other than water in over 24 hours.  And it is – hands down – the best mug of hot chocolate I’ve ever had.

I was so hungry.  I can’t remember the last time I was hungry and knew I wasn’t going to eat for hours, but that’s how I felt for the last 24 hours.  There have been times where I’ve had meals delayed—too busy, too rushed, too absorbed in other things that food falls by the wayside.

I’ve been lucky enough not to ever worry though that, at some point, food would be found and would fill my stomach.  This isn’t the same experience that so many Americans and people around the world have, and I realize that.  I have the luxury of denying myself food voluntarily.

But why did I?  Why did 160 of AILA and AIC staff and AILA members do the same?  Why are thousands of stakeholders across the country letting their stomachs grow empty and their bodies complain?

Because it’s the least we can do.  This hunger that we feel during a one day fast is so little compared to the hunger of the committed fasters who went 22 days without food before passing on their fast to others ready to step up and Fast4Families.

This hunger that we feel is negligible when you consider the children, the siblings, the spouses, the parents whose lives are torn apart when they run afoul of our broken immigration system.  They hunger for stability, for safety and security and freedom from fear.

So I was hungry for a day.  A lot of folks would say, that’s dumb, that going hungry won’t solve anything.  Just me, not eating.  That’s not a statement.

But, while one alone is a quiet action, when you add together the hundreds and thousands of participants across the country the call gets louder.  Combine the individuals, add in elected officials like Reps. Kennedy, Vargas, and Garcia who have also fasted, and you start hearing about it all over the country.  From California to New York, people are standing up and adding their voices, making an uproar.

And an uproar can cause change.

So yesterday, I went hungry.  It wasn’t fun.  But I took action, saying with my voice and with my body that I want change and that I’ll fight for it.  l drank water but it didn’t fool my stomach for long.  I started dreaming about what I’d eat when the fast ended.

And today, I will break my fast by dining at my favorite Indian restaurant.  And while I scarf down that delicious naan and curry, I will think of my Indian clients, many of them doctors working in underserved areas, and teachers working in inner city schools – people who are contributing to our society in ways that many Americans do not.  And I will think about how, under our current system, these people who have always played by the rules could be waiting literally decades before they will be approved for a green card unless we fix our broken system.

And the emptiness in my belly will be replaced by a fire – a fire to continue raising my voice on behalf of the voiceless and calling on House Leadership to move us forward on immigration reform.

The truth is, I’m still hungry.  Hungry for change.  Let’s get this done.

Written by Jennifer Minear, Member, AILA Board of Governors