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Immigration Reform “Office Hours”

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office hoursImmigration Advocates Show House Leaders Why the Pro-Reform Movement Cannot be Ignored

Between fasts across the country, prayer services and deliveries to House leadership offices, the pro-reform movement demonstrated its relentless commitment and strength once again this week.

The consistent daily pressure and moral commitment by immigration advocates stood in stark contrast to the inaction and avoidance of Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and other Republican leaders in the House.

The “Fast for Families” on the national mall has captured hearts and minds, drawing attention and support from across the political spectrum.  After 22 days of a water-only fast on the National Mall, faith, labor, and civil rights fasters passed the baton to a new contingent of leaders, and in a symbolic gesture, Eliseo Medina passed off his fast to Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA).  Kennedy’s grandfather, Senator Robert Kennedy, broke a similar 25-day fast by Cesar Chavez of United Farm Workers in 1968.

Said Eliseo Medina on today’s call:

We have seen the grounds of the House stir. When I ended my fast, Congressman Joe Kennedy stood before me, ready to take the charge of the fast. I saw in him a fortitude that embodied our growing movement for immigration reform and citizenship. It was an emotional reminder of how far we have gone and how much more we are willing to do to make immigration reform a reality. This is certainly not the end of our hunger for immigration reform.

However, despite the strong showing of support for the fasters outside the Capitol, the response from House leadership inside was cold.  Deliveries by advocates to House leadership offices were ignored and a personal invitation to Speaker Boehner from the fasters was met with yet another locked door, marking the third time in recent days that Boehner’s office staff barricaded themselves in the office to avoid speaking to immigrants and advocates.

Continuing hostility from Capitol Hill Police towards immigration advocates was a recurring theme this week, as children and other advocates were met with threats of arrest and strong words from Capitol Police.  As one officer said, “Warning number one.  That’s all you get.  This is getting old REAL fast.  I’m not going to tolerate it. This is a place of business and we do NOT sing in the hallway. Comprende?

“Advocates showed tremendous courage and strength this week, proving once again that our movement will stop at nothing to make real immigration reform a reality,” said Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice.  “When will Speaker Boehner and House leadership get it that this issue is not going away no matter how fast they run or how well they hide?  If they want us to stop bothering them, we will.  Just as soon as they schedule a vote on bill that puts 11 million immigrants on a path to citizenship.”

Additional reports this week continued to highlight Congress’ inactivity and unproductive close to 2013.  As the New York Times reported, this Congress is on track to be the least productive in history.

Last month, we kicked off the “Do Your Jobs” campaign by attempting to deliver immigrant-processed turkeys and merlot wine to Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and other House leadership offices.  The goal of the effort, organized by America’s Voice, United Farm Workers, United Food and Commercial Workers, Mi Familia Vota, and AFL-CIO, was to remind Republican leaders of the important work immigrants do every day so that they can enjoy holidays with their loved ones.  In exchange, we asked House Republicans to take 15 minutes out of their busy vacation schedules and schedule a vote on a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants who aspire to be Americans.

As a continuing part of the campaign, we’re showcasing the hard work done by  workers and business owners every day, while our “leaders” in Congress hold up action on immigration reform.  This week, we profiled Mark Gilson, owner of Gilson Gardens in northeast Ohio.  View Mark’s profile and graphic here and view our other “Do Your Jobs” profiles on Alejandro, a sheepherder in Colorado, and Francisco, a farmworker in California here and here.

On today’s call Gilson said:

What’s often missing from the immigration debate is the fact that immigrant workers don’t have a lot to go back to in their native countries.  After working in the United States for five or ten or twenty years, their home is here, their family is here, their life is here.  As a business owner, I depend on having a stable workforce I can rely on, but without immigration reform, my whole industry is at risk.  We have an opportunity to do the right thing, and in doing so reap long-term economic benefits.  Speaker Boehner should embrace this opportunity and schedule a vote.