Posted by on December 12, 2013 in Blog

By Maha Sayed
Legal Fellow

On Thursday evening, immigration advocates will end their fast in support of immigration reform. Since November 12, a group of faith, immigrant rights and labor leaders participated in the “Fast for Families” on the National Mall, a grassroots campaign designed to pressure House Republicans to take an immediate vote on a comprehensive immigration reform bill. H.R. 15, the companion House bill to the Senate immigration reform bill that passed in June, would tighten border security and provide a path to citizenship for the 11.5 million undocumented immigrants currently working and living in the U.S. Although Speaker John Boehner previously insisted that the House will not consider the comprehensive Senate bill, the wave of solidarity fasts, events and rallies across the nation further emphasizes the importance of immigration reform to the American electorate.

During the course of their fast, immigration advocates occupied a white tent on the National Mall, and gained support from top U.S. officials and lawmakers, including President Barack Obama, Vice President Joseph Biden, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and California Republicans, Reps. David Valadao and Jeff Denham, who serve as two of the three Republican cosponsors of H.R. 15. Initially, the “Fast for Families” began with four protesters abstaining from eating for three weeks in an effort to “move the hearts and compassion of members of Congress to pass immigration reform with a path to citizenship.” By Tuesday, another group of protesters began fasting for immigration reform, including Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-MA) and several faith leaders.

Despite efforts by advocates to pressure lawmakers to act on immigration reform, an immigration reform bill will unfortunately not be passed this year. House Republicans have instead focused on a piecemeal approach to immigration, drafting a series of narrow bills to change certain aspects of immigration law, without addressing key concerns, such as a pathway to citizenship.

The ongoing fasts in support of immigration reform reflect an additional layer of pressure that advocates have taken to capture the attention of lawmakers and highlight the necessity of a legislative solution to our broken immigration system. By abstaining from eating in protest of the currently ineffective immigration system, these activists have underscored the human element of the ongoing struggle of millions of undocumented immigrants.  

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