Muslims and Catholics held hands with immigration-reform advocates in the prayer hall of the Masjid Darul Qur'an mosque in North Bay Shore to plead "for the families of immigrants that have come to this country to escape violence, persecution and poverty."
The nearly 30 people there Friday were fasting in solidarity with advocates in Washington, D.C., on the 25th day of a hunger campaign to pressure the House of Representatives to back reform, including a citizenship path for immigrants in the country illegally.
Participants in the one-time Long Island fast committed to have only water until sundown. Some stayed through afternoon mosque prayers, and others returned to their homes and places of worship.
"This hunger I have is not just physical, but is also symbolic," said Janet Farfán, a Bay Shore resident and member of Latino-issues advocacy group Make The Road New York. "I have in me the courage to demand that our lives could go on with dignity and respect."
The event was part of an upswell of demonstrations, including more than 5,000 people signing up to fast on their own and about 2,000 members of the Roman Catholic order the Religious Sisters of Mercy, said Eliseo Medina, a labor organizer who lives in Washington, D.C., and one of the activists who fasted for 22 days while sitting in a heated tent at the National Mall.
"Our movement has been reignited," Medina said during a news briefing by telephone.
However, Ira Mehlman, a spokesman of the D.C.-based Federation for American Immigration Reform, which backs restrictive immigration policies, said that "outside of the people who are fasting and their supporters, I don't think this is getting too much attention."
Mehlman added that "some of that is reflected in the fact that the House has not taken up any of the legislation similar to what's in the Senate bill" passed in the summer.
President Barack Obama visited D.C. fasters last week, but House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has not responded to advocates' calls. He's said that he prefers to examine aspects of reform separately, but has not introduced any bills.
"Unfortunately, Boehner and the Republican caucus continue to hope that if they ignore an issue it will go away," Medina said. "Well, the ostrich theory doesn't work."Long Island fasters also were calling for action and a stop to deportations.
"We have taken it upon ourselves to write to our congresspeople . . . to say 'Please change these laws,' " said Sister Catherine Fitzgibbon, a Catholic nun among more than 500 with the Sisters of St. Joseph in Brentwood who joined the effort.
Hafiz ur Rehman, a pediatrician who is a North Bay Shore mosque board member, said changes are urgently needed.
"Today 11 million or more immigrants are suffering because of our own political inactivity," he said. "Each day that is lost is another family that's broken."