For Egla Gutiérrez, joining a group of Tucson day laborers on a five-day fast to protest the deportation of illegal immigrants goes beyond the political: It's personal.
From a Sonoran family that for decades has been crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, Gutiérrez, 25, has seen two of her brothers deported, has hopes for two others who are applying for legal residency and has a sister who is a U.S. citizen.
Gutiérrez is a "Dreamer." Her parents brought her to the U.S. when she was young, and now she has received temporary residency under the Obama administra-tion's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which says those who arrived before age 18 and meet other conditions are not subject to deportation. They also are entitled to documents allowing them to work legally in this country.
For the mother of two and a Tucson resident, not eating for five days is a price she said she is willing to pay to get her message across to President Obama and other officials. She knows it is a long shot, but desperate times call for desperate measures, she said.
"This president is the one who has the history of deporting more people than any other," she said. "Of course it is personal."
Gutiérrez joined seven other people - five day laborers and two other women - who started the fast Tuesday at Southside Presbyterian Church.
The fast is to end Saturday.
Those fasting include Guadalupe Guerrero, whose American-born son, Carlos Lamadrid, was shot and killed by a Border Patrol agent at the border fence in Douglas in 2011. The shooting occurred following a high-speed chase involving Lamadrid, who was driving a truck with marijuana bales.
The day laborers are hoping immigration reform is approved in Washington, where the House of Representatives seems to be lukewarm over the issue. The Senate approved the package.
Also, the fasters want local police departments to stop turning over people found without immigration documents to the Border Patrol.
Many illegal immigrants who are stopped for minor traffic violations by local police are turned over to the Border Patrol, said Raúl Alcaraz, an immigrant-rights organizer who has twice positioned himself under Border Patrol vehicles while trying to stop officers from taking away illegal immigrants.
About 70 people showed up to a community meeting at the south-side church Thursday night. Several speakers told the audience about their loved ones who were detained by local authorities and later transferred to the Border Patrol. Local law enforcement chiefs were invited but did not show up, organizers said.
Meanwhile, for Gutiérrez, the challenges of living without documents, though sometimes harsh, have motivated her to improve her education by studying the arts and political science, she said.
Immigrant-rights activists have tried just about everything to end deportations, to no avail, Gutiérrez said. So like César Chávez and other leaders of the past, she will try fasting, she said. "This is what gives me strength. Others have already left their mark," Gutiérrez said. "Now it is time to leave ours."
"This president is the one who has the history of deporting more people than any other. Of course it is personal."
Egla Gutiérrez, on five-day fast
Contact reporter Joseph Treviño at firstname.lastname@example.org or 807-8029.