Fasting for Justice

Beginning October 15th, more than 100 immigrant rights activists will begin a fast to draw attention to their cause and mobilize voters for the upcoming presidential election. “The Rise Movement” is a coalition whose major direct effort is to get 1 million people to sign a pledge to “vote for immigrant rights.” The fast will continue until they reach their objective.

One of the enduring promises of the immigration protests of spring 2006 was that meaningful action would translate into the electoral realm. “The Rise Movement” serves as something of a dramatic reminder of that vision, an attempt to remind people to make their vote count.

You can–and I hope you will–sign their pledge here.

The fast and pledge are not meant to mobilize support for any one particular candidate in the November race, but I suspect most of the participants (and even signers) will be supporters of Barack Obama or, at least, the Democratic Party. The failure of the current Republican administration to broker any substantive immigration legislation, as well as their decision to implement the current strategy of “enforcement,” are but two of the reasons people concerned with immigrant rights are looking elsewhere for their cause. The heavy racist undertow embedded within the current political context is another.

These perceptions notwithstanding, the record of the Democratic Party is only slightly better.  Democrats have done little more in terms of recognizing and protecting the humanity of immigrants.  In some cases (like the recent legislation to fund the construction of a fence or the funding of the Clinton administration’s deadly tactics as part of Operation Gatekeeper) they have stood on the side of those seeking to harm, to dehumanize, to oppress.  In other cases, their ambivalence for what is right over their desire for political expedience has done harm through what is not discussed, debated, or pursued.

I am not sure Barack Obama will be a meaningful change for immigrants or their allies, at least not in the political realm.  I am fairly confident in his ability and desire to end the wholesale persecution of working people whose only “crime” is crossing an imaginary line in the dirt.  A change in the executive–a change in the right direction–can stop ICE raids and begin the process of developing a more human procedure.  All this can happen in the short term.

But what would happen if we worked together for real change?  What would happen if the immigration stances of the Peace and Freedom Party or the Green Party became the law of the land?  What would a movement dedicated to fostering debate on these terms look like?  We think such visions are not politically expedient, but what would it mean if they were?

The causes of justice and humanity are far too important to us all to be confined to the politically expedient condition of consensus.  But we gotta start somewhere.

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