Four days ago in California, President Barack Obama promised immigration reform advocates that he would fight with them to help achieve their goals. On Friday, he kept his word.
The president and First Lady Michelle Obama spoke with protesters who are part of the Fast for Families movement on Friday in Washington, D.C. The fasting is an effort to increase the pressure on House Republicans to pass a 2013 immigration reform bill.
The White House said that the president and first lady spoke with the fasters for about 30 minutes. The activists have been fasting since Nov. 12, and the group is planning a nationwide event called National Days to Act, Fast and Pray from Dec. 1 to Dec. 3.
Senate Democrats, with the help of several Republicans, passed a massive comprehensive immigration reform bill in June. The bill includes a boost in border security, as well as a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants. However, House Republicans say they will not drop their several piecemeal measures in favor of a comprehensive bill, and their leadership has insisted the time to act this year has lapsed.
But the fasters say this year was the closest the nation came to restructuring the broken system, which they said has caused a moral crisis. Approximately 1,100 people are deported daily, breaking apart families.
The group has blamed Republicans for delaying a vote on reform.
“Every day the House leadership stalls on a vote for immigration reform, families and communities suffer the impact of deportations, deaths on the border, exploitation at work and the fear of living in the shadows with no path to citizenship,” its website read. “By fasting, we hope to follow the examples of Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi to touch the compassion and sensibilities of our elected leaders to address the moral crisis of an immigration system that fails to comport with our national values, our creeds and belief in justice.”
The GOP said it will be taking its time to work on the issue, and has passed a handful of piecemeal bills. Obama said he accepts the piecemeal approach so long as there is a solution for the undocumented.
On Monday, while on a tour of the West Coast, Obama stopped in San Francisco, where he recognized those fasting in the nation’s capital. He called them “brave advocates” and said, “I want them to know we hear you. We’re with you. The whole country hears you.”
Some advocates have put mounting pressure on the president to act unilaterally to extend deferred action, stopping deportations for all immigrants, but Obama said that isn’t an option.
Instead, the president will take the harder route, which is pressing Congress for reform, he said.
“So for those of you who are committed to getting this done, I am going to march with you and fight with you every step of the way to make sure that we are welcoming every striving, hardworking immigrant who sees America the same way we do -- as a country where no matter who you are or what you look like or where you come from, you can make it if you try,” Obama said.
The following day the first lady tweeted this encouragement:
As families begin to gather for Thanksgiving, I’m thinking of the brave #Fast4Families immigration reform advocates. We're with you. -mo
â€” FLOTUS (@FLOTUS) November 26, 2013
Laura is a U.S. politics reporter for the International Business Times. She was always fascinated by the BBC World News each morning on the radio in Jamaica. That, and a love...