by: MAYGAN BECKERS - (Left) Brenda Mendoza, vice president of PCUN and director of service center for farmworkers, and Carmen Dejesus, share a conversation while they eat their first meal after 24 hours of fasting for immigration reform awareness.More than 20 farmworker women from PCUN, Mujeres Luchadoras Progresistas (Women Striving for Progress) and CAPACES Leadership Institute began a 24-hour solidarity fast joining the National Farmworker Alliance and the Fast for Families campaign for immigration reform and citizenship on Thursday.

The fast was established to lead movement and push awareness to immigration reform. These women chose to participate in the fast after hearing about Eliseo Medina, SEIU’s secretary-treasurer, who recently finished a 22-day fast to support the cause.

The fast was in support of 11 million undocumented individuals and their families, along with internationally recruited workers who receive visas to work in the country. The women were encouraged to bring the awareness to their local community.

“I know what it feels like to be undocumented,” said Brenda Mendoza, vice president of PCUN and director of service center for families. “I know what it feels like to live in the shadow, I know what it means to have the opportunity to come out of the shadow and be a contributing member of this society.”

The women wish to show the impact of this fast by not only continuing this on a local level, but in the Willamette Valley and through the national alliance.

“Farmworker women are more at a disadvantage in the sense that they’re often discriminated against because of their gender,” said Mendoza. “Not only that, they’re also sexually harassed and sometimes even abused and raped in the workplace. These are more specific needs than the general immigrant community.”

As an 11-year-old, Mendoza immigrated across the border with her sister and grandmother in November 1997. She mentioned she’s lived here for half of her life now and this is home for her.

“Now it’s my turn to give back to the community and to give back to whoever fought for me, who has an immigrant status and was able to reach citizenship after it,” she said.

Although some women appeared to have health conditions, they still managed to participate in the fast and join each other’s company after the 24 hours. They ate their first meal together — warm soup — in Woodburn’s CAPACES while sharing their experiences with the fast on Friday evening.

Multiple women laughed as they admitted that they accidentally ate crackers without realizing they were doing so, but this experience put things into perspective for women who continue to suffer.

Tears were shared as stories continued through the night together after fighting for the women that they believe deserve to be treated as equal citizens.

Lorena Manzo shared that all she wants is community awareness and support.

“Here in Woodburn we have a lot of Latinos that have a lot of small businesses,” she said through a translator.

“These businesses actually depend on the migrant community and on the community here in Woodburn. They can participate by calling us business owners to their representatives in support of immigration reform.”

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