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National Hunger Strike For Family Reunification Comes To Santa Cruz

A national rolling hunger strike has arrived in Santa Cruz. It’s trying to draw attention to immigrant children still separated from their parents under the Trump Administration's zero-tolerance policy.  

Car horns communicate support to a small group of hunger strikers in downtown Santa Cruz. They’ve set up camp near the Town Clock. Handmade signs that read “Free Our Children” and “#Hungry4Justice” are taped to their chairs.

Five Santa Cruz moms are fasting for three days. They’ll campout at the Town Clock during the day and go home to their families at night. Their goal is to make sure people remember that not all families separated at the border have been reunited.

The U.S. Department of Justice says more than 500 children between the ages of 5 and 17 are currently ineligible for reunification.  

Rae Steward organized the Santa Cruz strike.

“Many people are being called to this cause, to support this cause, but particularly parents because they're just trying to imagine the trauma and the anguish that your children would be going through or that you’d be going through being separated,” Steward says.

This strike is part of a National Rolling Hunger Strike organized by Families Belong Together and Free, a grassroots group. ‘Rolling’ means that it’s moving from city to city. The strike started in Oakland, moved to Sacramento and is now here in Santa Cruz until Tuesday evening.

Hunger striker Masina Hunnicutt says what’s needed is immigration reform. But until then, she’ll work to keep this family reunification crisis in the public’s eye.

“There's a humaneness that's missing in this whole conversation that I just want to bring it back to that,” says Hunnicutt, who immigrated from Samoa in the South Pacific 12 years ago.

This national hunger strike heads to Portland, Oregon, next and then onto 15 other cities. 

Erika joined KAZU in 2016. Her roots in radio began at an early age working for the independent community radio station in her hometown of Boulder, Colorado. After graduating from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in 2012, Erika spent four years working as a television reporter. She’s very happy to be back in public radio and loves living in the Monterey Bay Area.