Fast for Families and Immigration Reform

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Explore:  Immigration Reform

Fast for Families began as a sit-in on the National Mall on November 12 in hopes of urging Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Since that time, several more fasters – including religious clergy and politicians – have joined the fasters in Washington, D.C. and in fasting efforts around the country in order to increase awareness of the need for immigration reform.

The Fast for Families tent continues to sit on the National Mall. The tent includes hand-written notes from supporters and a makeshift altar built around a migrant’s tattered shoe, in addition to the fasters and visitors. But the Fast for Families movement stretches far beyond the walls of the tent and beyond the reaches of Capitol Hill. According to the Center for American Progress, more than 200 people have fasted in the tents, and more than 10,000 have fasted across the country.

In the past month, the Fast for Families tent has been visited by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, and several members of Congress and civil leaders have taken turns fasting. Most recently, New Jersey Sens. Robert Menendez and Cory Booker joined activists in Washington, D.C., for a 24-hour fast in support of immigration reform. Closer to home, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and members of the Chicago City Council’s Latino Caucus took part in a 24-hour fast on December 11-12 in support of the activists in D.C.

The four original fasters—Eliseo Medina, Dae Joong Yoon of NAKASEC, Lisa Sharon Harper of Sojourners, and Cristian Avila of Mi Familia Vota— fasted for 22 days before a group of replacements stepped in when fasting became medically dangerous for the group.

Immigration reform advocates are holding out renewed hope that comprehensive immigration reform will be enacted in 2014 when Boehner hired Rebecca Tallent – a former top aide to Sen. John McCain – to advise him on immigration issues. Supporters and opponents of immigration reform alike seem to think that Boehner’s hiring of Tallent is a clear signal that House Republicans want to move forward with immigration reform.

Earlier this year, the Senate passed the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, which, most notably, would:

  • Create a “path to citizenship,” whereby undocumented immigrants would be able to receive green cards and apply for full citizenship after all other prior applications for green cards have been processed on behalf of people who have pursued a traditional path to full citizenship;
  • Phase in mandatory use of the federal E-Verify system by employers so that they can accurately and consistently determine employment eligibility;
  • Eliminate country-specific limits on employment-based immigration visas, which have previously caused huge backlogs for petitioners from large countries, such as India and China;
  • Exempt from annual immigration visa caps certain “highly skilled” and “very talented” immigrants, including immigrants of ”extraordinary ability,” multi-national executives, graduates of U.S. universities with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (so-called “STEM” fields), and physicians who fill special medical needs or who work in medically underserved areas;
  • Exempt all STEM applicants from the usual labor certification requirements; and
  • Exempt from annual caps all spouses and children of all employment-based immigrants.

Boehner has previously said that the House won’t accept the Senate’s sweeping immigration bill, and that he and other top House Republicans prefer to address immigration reform in a series of individual bills that address various aspects of immigration, such as the legalization of young undocumented immigrations, commonly referred to as “dreamers.”