By Alfredo Camacho for South Kern Sol
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — This past Wednesday, immigration reform supporters including Cal State Bakersfield professor Gonzalo Santos, and Andres Chavez, the grandson of the late Cesar E. Chavez kicked off the national ‘Fast for Families’ campaign with a 24-hour hunger strike at the Liberty Bell in downtown Bakersfield.
“There are sixteen of us fasting, but we’re trying to speak for 11 million people,” said Maria Barajas, 21, a first-generation immigrant raised in the United States. “We have to all somehow let all of our voices heard so that together we can accomplish this.”
Despite a politically conservative climate, Kern County has seen a new generation of activists picking up the torch for civil rights: all but three of the 16 strikers were part of that new generation.
While those participating in the fast were united in their demand for comprehensive immigration reform, their reasons and motivations varied. For some hunger strikers, like Santos, the fasting was a show of solidarity for others, particularly those who cannot put themselves out in the spotlight for fear of deportation.
“I have a lot of students who are undocumented, or whose families are undocumented, and who are under constant threat of being deported or having their families torn apart,” explained Santos. “I’m motivated in coming out here to make sure that some of the brightest students I’ve ever had can keep their families together and can contribute to the country they call home.”
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