Chicago-area religious leaders join hunger strike in support of Dreamers
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Dozens of Chicago-area religious leaders have committed to fasting for at least one day during Lent to support “Dreamers,” immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children, as the immigration debate approaches a key deadline in Washington. 

The Rev. Gary Graf began a hunger strike on Jan. 15 and has committed to fasting until March 5, President TrumpDonald TrumpWendy Sherman takes leading role as Biden's 'hard-nosed' Russia negotiator Senate needs to confirm Deborah Lipstadt as antisemitism envoy — Now Former acting Defense secretary under Trump met with Jan. 6 committee: report MORE’s deadline for Congress to pass legislation on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Graf, a pastor at a Catholic parish of the Archdiocese of Chicago, has been subsisting on water and protein powder during his strike and has lost more than 20 pounds.

Trump rescinded DACA in September, giving lawmakers a six-month deadline to pass replacement legislation to protect the estimated 800,000 Dreamers who benefit from the program.

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At a Monday news conference, dozens of other religious leaders, including members of immigration advocacy groups Priests for Justice for Immigrants and the Sisters and Brothers of Immigrants, spoke out in support of Graf’s hunger strike and committed to fasting for one or more days of Lent in solidarity, the Tribune reported.

Graf said that he will end his fast on March 5, or whenever lawmakers reach a DACA deal. He told the Chicago Tribune that he has continued to take communion during his fast.

“I think the spiritual journey helps, and feeling the support of others,” Graf said. “The focus is obviously not on me or us — it’s on Dreamers. Hopefully, we can influence those that are going to make decisions about their future.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has long been supportive of immigration rights and outspoken about his criticism of Trump’s handling of DACA. He has also fought for cities’ rights to be so-called sanctuary cities, pushing back against Trump administration actions to withhold federal funding for those cities.

GOP-authored legislation that reflects Trump’s immigration framework is at the center of the legislative debate that is beginning in the Senate. The proposal provides a path to citizenship for 1.8 million Dreamers as well as $25 billion in funding for border security measures and new limits on legal immigration.