On Thursday afternoon, the immigration reform organization Fast4Families ended 31 days of fasting in Washington, D.C. by holding one last press conference on the National Mall. Fasters broke their fast with a “feast” on water and bread, and said that they would continue to push efforts for an immigration reform bill that includes a cessation to deportations and a pathway to citizenship after Congress comes back from winter break.
Before the press conference, thousands of activists held vigils and shared their personal stories at more than 190 House Republicans and four House Democrats’ offices.
Rudy Lopez, a faster with the organization Fair Immigration Reform Movement, was carried up to the main platform where he was supported by core fasters including Eliseo Medina, Dae Joong Yoon, Cristian Avila, Lisa Harper, Rev. Jim Wallis, and others. Lopez abstained from food for 22 days.
“We fast not out of anger, but out of faith, hope, and love,” Medina said. He also fasted for 22 days before passing his fast to two fasters, one of whom was Rep. Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA).
Medina added, “We fast out of hope that we can touch the heart of Speaker Boehner (R-OH) so that he can reflect on the tragedy and the needless suffering and that he should act on his duty of a legislator and a Christian by allowing a vote on immigration reform.”
The press conference is the culmination of a month-long effort by peaceful activists who have become a familiar sight to Capitol Police and Congressional staff members alike.
In the 31 days since the fast began, the activists have been unable to meet with Boehner, but they have been successful at amplifying their movement down Congressional hallways and all the way to the White House. Fasters received visits from prominent guests like President Barack Obama, the First Lady, the Vice President, White House Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Munoz, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and a host of bipartisan Congressional members. What’s more, there have been more than 10,000 solidarity fasters nationwide.
Medina is optimistic that the fast worked, saying, “Just several hours ago, Chairman Goodlatte (R-VA) announced that immigration reform is now a top priority for the House of Representatives” during a House Judiciary Committee hearing.
Some House Republicans like Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) accused activists of “killing” reform, “I begged them not to do crazy things, and they decided to be crazy. Now it’s dead. That’s what they get. It’s stupid. Why target the people who actually want to do reform?”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) disagreed with the assessment on Wednesday night when he visited the fasters for a private meeting. He said to ThinkProgress, “For those who are discouraged because of the activists, I’m afraid they were never with us anyway. But those who are trying to make a decision, they will recognize and respect the passion and commitment” of the fasters.
Durbin also said, “Doing this effort here, this fasting, and bringing national attention to the issue has profound impact on America. Every place I go, people know that the fasters are here. The President came to visit, the First Lady was here, members of the Cabinet and others. It’s a recognition that there’s a powerful force at work on the Mall in Washington.”