Before the crack of dawn on Wednesday, more than 200 undocumented youths and their family members led a candlelight vigil for immigration reform outside of House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) house in Washington, D.C. Organizers, with the pro-immigration group United We Dream, held a mock Thanksgiving dinner as a symbol of the meal that organizers would not be able to share with loved ones who have been deported. They also asked House Republicans to stop obstructing advancement on immigration reform by using various excuses.
Undocumented activist Antonio Castanon was interrupted during his speech by one of Boehner’s neighbor who told the group to “go home.” Castanon said, “Thanksgiving is about inclusiveness, but due to the immigration system, some of these seats will remain empty.”
“We want to highlight that every day [Boehner] waits, another 1,100 people are getting deported,” David Chung, another undocumented activist, said. “We knew that he could hear us, we had speakers … we want to schedule a meeting about what we want done on our end … Every day we live this. It’s a personal fight and we can’t give up. It’s a fight as long as our family members and friends need us. There’s still nine days — nine chances for Congress to act.”
According to some accounts, Boehner peered out his window, but never came outside. Cops were called to the home, but they allowed the rallygoers to stay so long as the event remained peaceful. Organizers stood outside Boehner’s home for an hour before they marched to his office. They will also stop by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) office later in the day.
The early morning vigil is just one in a series of targeted events aimed at pressuring Boehner to allow a vote on a reform bill introduced by House Democrats and supported by a minority of House Republicans. Two teenagers confronted Boehner during his breakfast at a local diner last week. On Tuesday, faith leaders and community organizers in their eighth day of fasting inside a tent on the National Mall marched with feminist leader Gloria Steinem to Boehner’s office. They were not allowed in and asked to leave. In his most overt show of support, President Obama (D) announced on Tuesday that he would back piecemeal reform. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) also said on Tuesday that she would fast for a day in solidarity with activists.
But activists aren’t just targeting House leaders — they’re also trying to correct the image that immigration reform is only about undocumented male workers. During a press conference, organized by the pro-immigration group We Belong Together, on Tuesday, with Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Steinem pushed the notion that immigration reform is a women’s issue — 75 percent of all immigrants are women and children, while 51 percent of all undocumented workers are women. Because of deportation fears, undocumented females are reluctant to report domestic abuse and other crimes against them.
Boehner stated in recent days that the House would not proceed with the approved Senate immigration bill, while House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) reasoned that immigration reform shouldn’t take place because of Obamacare website glitches.
Roybal-Allard said to ThinkProgress, “[this] is just another example of how Republicans in Congress have been obstructionists to moving any kind of positive legislation forward … what’s really going to make the difference is if the public can get behind this and contact the Republican leadership, contact their Republican members and tell them that they have to pass something. That kind of pressure from constituents would make the difference.”
On Wednesday afternoon, 11 United We Dream members were arrested after holding a civil disobedience protest inside Cantor’s office. Five members are undocumented.