Vincent Pan barely had the energy to speak, and seemed to fall asleep before the eyes of the 30 or so activists gathered in Chinatown last night.
Pan, executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action, was on the 11th day of a fast he’d started in solidarity with immigration activists who fasted for 22 days in Washington DC, all with a common goal -- to push Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Last evening, Mon/9, marked his last night depriving himself of food. Before taking his first bite in nearly two weeks, he reflected on what the fast meant for him.
“The first few days I was very, very hungry, and had terrible headaches,” he said. “I kept reminding myself, if [the DC protesters] had been fasting for two weeks, I can manage three days. I stopped thinking about [them] and started thinking about the suffering in our country. Thousands of families have been split by deportations. We're on track to have 400,000 deportations this year.”
He added, “We're not asking for a privilege or for special favors. We're asking to be treated as human beings.”
Many others joined in, with a one-day fast. One undocumented college student, who gave her name only as Beatrice, said she’d made the decision to fast for more personal reasons.
“In these holidays i don't have my family here with me,” she said. “Its tough being undocumented because you can't spend time with your families because they're working or being detained. I fasted to keep families together.”
The Chinese Progressive Association and Women’s Collective (Colectiva de Mujeres) were also on hand, presenting a united front of Asian and Latino activists standing together for a common cause.
The Chinese for Affirmative Action headquarters is just a few blocks from the Betty Ong Recreation center, where, only a few weeks ago, President Obama spoke and was interrupted by immigration activists who demanded an end to deportations.
“It’s fitting we’re here in Chinatown just a few miles away from Angel Island,” Obama said that night. “In the early 1900s about 300,000 people, maybe some of your ancestors, passed through on their way to a new life in America. For many it represented the end of a long and arduous journey.”
But for many, that arduous journey clearly isn't over yet.
With one sip of hot soup, Pan ended his 11-day fast. Yet the larger battle for immigration reform is far from over.