Twelve pounds lighter and eight days without food, Eliseo Medina led about 30 immigration reform activists to House Speaker John Boehner’s district office in a protest Tuesday.
Before making the short walk over from the National Mall to the Longworth Building across the street from the Capitol, Medina and the activists were given a pep-talk by feminist Gloria Steinem. She is to be honored with a Medal of Freedom Wednesday at the White House.
“I’m wearing a button that says: Nation of Illegal Aliens since 1492,” Steinem told the 30 or so activists lined up two-by-two on a brisk day.
She told the marchers immigration is a feminist issue because about three-fourths of immigrants in the U.S. illegally are women and children.
“There is no such thing as a border that is proof against poverty, or against the natural migration of workers back and forth,” she said. “We are simply asking that we have rules that recognize reality so that we do not declare righteous human beings to be criminals.”
Medina, former secretary-treasurer of Service Employees International Union, and a four others began fasting Nov. 12 to protest the GOP’s failure to bring up an immigration reform bill this year.
They stay in a tent pitched within view of the Capitol and are joined daily by sympathizers and supportive lawmakers and celebrities. Medina said his weight has gone from 184 pounds to 171 pounds.
“It’s getting a little hard,” Medina said, but added, “I expected this. I don’t get hungry anymore.”
The Rev. Jesse Jackson was to meet with the fasters later Tuesday.
At Boehner’s office, Medina and the activists _ Steinem did not march there _ were told the speaker was not available and his schedule was set for the day so there was not time for a meeting.
“What about tomorrow?” Medina asked.
“Next week?” he said.
In response to each question, a spokeswoman for Boehner said she would pass on Medina’s concerns to the speaker.
Three fasters told their stories to the spokeswoman, who stood outside the closed door of Boehner’s office with the activists crowded into the narrow hallway, occasionally told to open a pathway by police.
The group concluded the protest by asking Boehner’s aide to join hands in prayer with them. She declined. They prayed anyway.