A group of immigration reform activists had been fasting on the National Mall in Washington D.C. for 22 days before finally breaking their fast on Tuesday.
Four demonstrators, including the SEIU’s Eliseo Medina, on Tuesday ended their hunger strike and passed the torch to seven others who will fast in their place. Most of the fasters went without food for more than three weeks, only consuming water during that time.
The new group includes Rep. Joe Kennedy III, grandson of Robert F. Kennedy. He will fast for 24 hours, then another member of Congress will take his place. Fifteen members of Congress, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, attended the event to show their support.
“We have a broken immigration system, and we have a broken political system in this country,” said Reverend Jim Wallis of Sojourners, one of the seven beginning to fast. “Our politics have become dysfunctional, and there is evidence for that all around. Because of broken politics, we are seeing broken lives.”
In support of their efforts, President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama on Friday visited with a group of fasters last week, praising organizers Eliseo Medina and Dae Joong Yoon and thanked “all of the fasters for their sacrifice and dedication, and told them that the country is behind them on immigration reform,” according to a White House statement.
Immigration reform activists across the country have kept up the pressure on House Speaker John Boehner to move forward on immigration reform. Momentum has steadily been gaining, with national polls showing substantial support for reform along with a decline for those who are vehemently anti-immigrant. The pressure appears to be working, with Boehner making a key personnel move.
According to a Tuesday announcement, Rebecca Tallent will join the office as Assistant to the Speaker for Policy handling immigration issues. She was previously at the Bipartisan Policy Center, where she was the director of immigration policy.
Here on Long Island, we’ll be holding our own fast in solidarity with the courageous fasters in Washington and around the country. This Friday, December 6, we’ll be co-hosting a press conference in Bay Shore to give thanks to our allies around the country and to to recognize our own fasters who are joining in.