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Activist supports immigrant rights protesters

October 22, 2008|Anna Gorman | Gorman is a Times staff writer.

As the immigrant rights protesters finished their first week of fasting, longtime activist Dolores Huerta on Tuesday came to Olvera Plaza to show her support.

She told the crowd that they were fasting for the future of immigrants and their children, but also for the future of California and the nation.

"Let's all join in this spiritual movement, the movement for justice for our immigrants," she said.

Then she reminded them to drink lots of water and led them in a chant: "¡Que viva los immigrantes! ¡Que viva Cesar Chavez!"

About 30 people are camping out in downtown Los Angeles to mobilize 1 million Latinos to vote and to call upon the new administration to stop the raids and legalize the nation's estimated 12 million illegal immigrants. Some are fasting only for a day, while others have pledged to participate for 21 days, until the presidential election. The crowd swelled during the weekend, but many returned to school and work Monday.

Though some of the fasters are undocumented, others are legal residents and U.S. citizens.

During the day, the protesters pray, sing, read and organize. At night, they bed down in tents across the street from Union Station.

They also staged a mock raid and are planning a march to a downtown detention center.

Organizers said that with the election approaching, they wanted to re-energize the movement that brought hundreds of thousands to the streets in 2006.

One of the fasters, Elvis Prado, 21, said he hopes that the fast will encourage people to vote with immigrant rights in mind. Illegal immigrants worry about being detained, deported and separated from their families.

"People deserve to not live in fear," said Prado, a UCLA student who was born in the United States.

Prado said his family and friends are surprised about his involvement but that they have been supportive.

"I've never been part of something like this," he said.

Antonio Beltran, 27, who gave only his second last name, said he graduated from Cal State Northridge and owns a furniture design business but is in the United States illegally. Beltran said he has been disappointed during this presidential campaign.

"Neither candidate is talking about immigration," he said. "We need to fast to bring awareness and to bring the discussion again to immigration."

Beltran said he plans to only drink water until the end, but that he is already thinking about what he will eat after the election -- mole poblano and handmade tortillas.

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anna.gorman@latimes.com

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