Since early November, labor, community and religious leaders have been engaged in the “Fast for Families” – a water-only fast in a tent on the National Mall that highlights the moral urgency of immigration reform. As prominent faster Eliseo Medina said, their sacrifice is designed to “create a moral force that will convince Congress that the time to act is now.”
Their commitment has inspired the three-day “National Days to Act, Fast and Pray,” in which thousands of solidarity fasts will take place throughout the nation this week. The day after Thanksgiving, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama visited the fasters, with the President saying, “it is not a question of whether immigration reform will pass, but how soon.” Republican House Member Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) also visited the fasters, saying in response, “It is a tremendous commitment, what they have been through…I think it’s going to have an impact with more and more members…It helps us bring great recognition to the overall issue.”
Yet those most in need of visiting the fasters – House Republican leaders currently blocking immigration reform – have yet to make the short journey from Capitol Hill to the National Mall to receive a reminder of what’s at stake. Mere days after vowing that the House of Representatives would never conference with the Senate bill on immigration, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) stated, “Is immigration reform dead? Absolutely not … I believe that Congress needs to deal with this issue. Our committees are continuing to do their work. There are a lot of private conversations that are underway to try to figure out, how do we best move on a common-sense, step-by-step basis to address this very important issue…because it is a very important issue.” Yet Speaker Boehner and other House Republicans have yet to introduce legislation that would create a path to immediate legal status and eventual citizenship and make specific commitments to schedule a vote on immigration reform. The only immigration vote held in 2013 was a measure sponsored by Rep. Steve King (R-IA) to defund DACA and subject DREAMers to deportation.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
It’s time for Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to show some respect and visit the fasters. It would also be a chance for House Republican leadership to commit to a timeline for votes on immigration reform. Anything less makes the House leaders’ rhetorical support for reform pale in comparison to the reality of their delays, excuses and slow-walking.