Community members, leaders attend Fast for Families forum to talk about immigration reform
JANESVILLE – DJ Yoon held a dirty sneaker up as a reminder for those who die crossing the border.
He didn't know whether it belonged to a male or female or if the person who lost it was coming into the United States or leaving. He just knew the person passed away for some reason or another related to immigration.
Rudy Lopez's cousin had a similar fate. He was found dead in the desert trying to come to the United States.
“Why (does) someone have to die when they are searching for something better?” he asked those attending a community forum on immigration reform Tuesday night in Janesville. “America is about dreams and hope.”
Yoon of Los Angeles and Lopez of East Chicago, Ind., are coordinators and lead fasters of Fast for Families.
Members of the national immigration reform campaign are visiting more than 100 congressional districts in the U.S. by bus to help spread the word about the bipartisan immigration bill the U.S. Senate passed in June of last year. The bill, which is waiting to be voted on in the House of Representatives, would provide immigrants living in the U.S. illegally a path to citizenship and tighten border security.
There are reportedly 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.
The campaign is in its fourth week and will make its final stop April 9 in Washington, D.C.
At the community forum Tuesday at Mt. Zion United Methodist, 2130 Mount Zion Ave., Yoon, Lopez and others spoke about the importance of talking to and working with congressional representatives about immigration reform.
Lopez urged people in attendance to contact Rep. Paul Ryan, saying it was “not just for the good of the immigrant … with this moral crisis, this country can't progress.”
Many in attendance believe the immigration system is broken. Representatives from both political parties seem to agree. That includes Ryan, according to his congressional website.
“We have an obligation, a responsibility, to tell congress members to wake up and listen to your community members,” Yoon said.
Community members are encouraged to not just tell Congress they want a change, but to tell their leaders what they want and that they want it this year, Lopez said. They are also encouraged to join in fasting.
Members of Fast for Families fast one day a week to raise awareness about the immigration system, and they do so to connect with immigrants and non-immigrants throughout the country.
“Fasting is about understanding other people's pain,” Yoon said. “To feel connected and reconnect yourself,” to the mission.
Yoon emigrated from South Korea with his mother 24 years ago when he was 18 years old.
Jose Carrillo, a Janesville School District youth advocate, emigrated from Mexico in 1969. He later went back to Mexico and returned to the U.S. in 1973.
Carrillo attended Tuesday's meeting because he supports immigration reform and wants others to know that people don't come to the U.S. to rely on the government.
“People come to this country for a better life and opportunities,” he said. “They come from places that don't have the same opportunity and they want to better themselves and their families. They come here to work.”
At this point, the goal is to spread the word about immigration reform, stop the deportation of immigrants living in the country illegally and work on giving back the ability for those who are here illegally to have driver's licenses, said Nancy Flores, organizer at Voces De La Frontera, a state-wide immigrant rights group based in Milwaukee.
Flores worked with Voces De La Frontera to host Fast for Families events Monday and Tuesday as the group traveled to five different cities statewide.
Also at Tuesday's meeting was Donna Veatch, United Methodist Immigration Task Force chairwoman. Veatch echoed the need to stop deportation and permit driver's licenses.
“I believe that people need to know we care,” she said. "The idea is to help people and show how they can be part of the common good.”