Chicago, Illinois – A group headed by a Salvadoran-born priest are completing the third day of a hunger strike to protest the refusal by two Chicago hospitals to perform organ transplants on unauthorized immigrants who lack health insurance.
"We're a little weak but we're not going to lift the measure until the hospitals agree to talks," Father Jose Landaverde told Efe Tuesday.
Several Latinos with relatives in need of transplants have joined Landaverde in staging the fast at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Anglican Catholic Mission, a church located in the largely Mexican neighborhood of Little Village in South Side Chicago.
They include 35-year-old Mexican Lorenzo Arroyo who, along with his brother, 37-year-old Elfego, is in need of a kidney transplant.
The two siblings and their oldest brother, 39-year-old Francisco, all suffer from a rare illness known as amyloidosis that they inherited from their late mother, who passed away two years ago.
Francisco, the only one of the three with his papers in order, received a transplant through the usual channels.
Speaking deliberately while seated on a sofa at the church, Lorenzo spoke to Efe about his decision to participate in the hunger strike.
"So far I feel OK, thank God," Lorenzo said. "He's giving me strength to resist and as long as He gives me strength I must be on hunger strike until there's an agreement with the hospitals and they decide to treat us."
He called on the Mexican and U.S. governments to create a bi-national fund to help undocumented migrants who, like him and his two brothers, have serious illnesses, adding that "because we're undocumented, we're destined to die."
Another undocumented Hispanic migrant in urgent need of assistance is 24-year-old Jorge Mariscal, who needs a new kidney and has no way to afford a transplant that would cost between $100,000 and $250,000.
His mother, Sonia Lopez, told Efe she will remain on hunger strike as long as necessary to secure the necessary aid for her son and the Arroyo brothers.
Hilda Burgos, whose son received a kidney transplant years ago, also has joined in the protest in solidarity with the others.
She said her son, Luis Jesus, now leads a normal life and she wants other immigrants in the same plight to have access to organ transplants as well.
The 40-year-old Landaverde said the protesters are only consuming liquids and, in Lorenzo's case, doctors have detected a worrying spike in his blood pressure.
"It's difficult but we're going to fight because we know there are really big-hearted people in the hospitals who are very committed to God and to people," Landaverde said.
The priest was referring to the Loyola University Medical Center, "a Christian institution that should choose the moral and ethical path," and the University of Illinois Medical Center, which he said "values money more than people's lives."
Neither institution has responded yet to the demonstrators' demands. A third facility, the Advocate Christ Hospital and Medical Center, reportedly has agreed to meet with the protesters on Friday.
Landaverde said the message of the hunger strike is the need for "people to reconcile themselves with the poor and with immigrants."