A group of seven Unitarian Universalists staged a 24-hour hunger fast in downtown Brea in support of comprehensive immigration reform. The protest, which ended at noon today, featured the placement of fasting tents outside the office of Republican Congressman Ed Royce (R-Fullerton). Activists also collected petitions for a letter addressed to him regarding their legislative demands on immigration.
"Most people have been positive and curious," says Debbie Lagenbacher. The Unitarian Univeralist activist helped organize the event and participated in the water-only fast. "We've gotten several signatures. We've had probably 50 or 60 people that have signed copies of that letter for us to take up there."
The women joined the "Fast for Families" movement that began last November with a month-long action outside the doorsteps of the U.S. Capitol. While casual folks passing by are largely receptive, Representative Royce, the man of the hour, has been less so.
"I've actually been working to get an appointment to Mr. Royce and his staff for quite awhile," Lagenbacher adds. "Last year it took me three months to get a meeting with one of his staff people. This year, I tried to schedule a meeting with someone in his office for today. I've made several emails, several phone calls, meet face-to-face with his scheduler and still didn't get a meeting."
Lagenbacher, identifying as a humanist, underscores that the fasters come from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fullerton making a majority of them direct constituents of the Congressman.
The letter by them to him begins, "People of faith are called to stand with the vulnerable and the oppressed." For Royce, he'd need a 'come to Jesus moment' to understand that! It further calls the current immigration system "broken" saying, "It is tearing families apart and threatening to stymie the futures of promising students who have been raised in the U.S."
The demands for systemic change includes an end to human rights abuses against migrants, stopping Know Nothing laws that racially profile, and the creation of a humane immigration system with a pathway to citizenship. In the letter the fasters also rejected the notion that there's "no room at the inn," referencing the biblical story Jesus Christ's birth. As Unitarian Universalists are comprised of people raised in various faith traditions (or no tradition at all) the Weekly asked, "Who would Jesus deport?"
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"When you consider that Joseph and Mary, according to the story, were wanderers and trying to find a place to stay, they were not welcomed anywhere because they were migrating," Lagenbacher says. "There was no place at the inn so they had to stay at the stable.
"Certainly one would expect to some degree people of that faith would consider that when thinking about immigration."
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @dpalabraz