About 100 people gathered Sunday at Fresno State's Peace Garden to sing, pray and hold a candlelight vigil, marking the end of a nationwide monthlong fast in support of immigration reform.
Nearly a dozen, including local clergy, fasted and prayed for three weeks as part of the "Fast 4 Families" campaign, in support of a quicker path to U.S. citizenship for an estimated 11 million undocumented people in the country.
Pastor Natalie Chamberlain with the United Christian Church of Fresno said she gave up one meal a day in support for the campaign. She said she didn't do a full fast because of her health.
"I have the choice to give something up, so many of the people that are part of the 11 million don't have a choice about what they give up," Chamberlain said. "Fasting is a way to live in solidarity."
Local clergy from several faiths led Sunday's event with song and prayer next to the statue of Cesar Chavez at the Peace Garden. Leaders hoped the moment of prayer and candlelight vigil would serve as a call for action to members of Congress who will determine the fate of immigration reform.
The multi-faith event, organized by the Fresno-based Faith in Community, was created to bring peace and hope to those living in daily fear of deportation, organizer Brenda Noriega said.
"We are not protesting," Noriega said. "This is not about politics, it's about a moral issue and we are coming together as one nation breaking the barriers of race and fighting for immigration reform."
The crowd reached about 100 at its peak and dropped to 60 during the evening vigil.
Irma Moreno, 79 — holding a sign that read "We have a dream too!" — was among those who stayed during the 90-minute event despite the cooler temperatures.
"I had to come, I had to give a voice to those who don't have a voice," said Moreno, who lives in Fresno. "There's so much injustice, it has to be resolved."
Sunday's event came two days after President Barack Obama told activists who were fasting in Washington, D.C., that their "commitment to change" ultimately will help pressure lawmakers to act.
The White House issued a statement after the visit that said Obama thanked the hunger strikers "and told them that the country is behind them on immigration reform."
The Associated Press contributed to this report. The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6659, email@example.com or @DianaT_Aguilera on Twitter.