President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama dropped in Friday on the people who have been staging a fast for more than three weeks and their supporters in support of their campaign to pressure the House GOP to bring an immigration reform bill to a vote.
Their stop by the tent where the fasters have been gathering each day near the U.S. Capitol included a chat with the fasters, the White House said.
Three people, Eliseo Medina of Service Employees International Union; Cristian Avila of Mi Familia Vota and Dae Joong Yoon of National Korean American & Education Association, have been fasting for 18 days in hope of a vote before the year ends. A fourth faster, the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference began a 40-day fast on Nov. 4.
Medina and Yoon were on hand for the president and first lady’s visit, according to a pool report. Also there were 18 others who joined the fast for a day, the report said. Several people have come by the tent to participate in the fast for a day or two or to show support for the campaign.
The president and first lady spoke to the fasters for about half an hour, according to the pool report distributed by the White House.
Obama told the activists that he appreciated their efforts. He also reiterated his view that there is still time this year for the House to pass legislation, The Associated Press reported.
The fasters last week asked that all Americans to join them for a day or more of fasting, prayer or other action with them Dec. 1-3 to help them ratchet up the pressure on the House GOP.
Four Democratic House members, Reps. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois; Jackie Speir of California; Sean Patrick Maloney of New York and Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii joined for a day. Schakowsky has sent out a letter to other members asking them to join.
Schakowsky’s office has asked other members of Congress to also fast in solidarity with the immigration activists and her office said Reps. Jackie Speier of California, Sean Patrick Maloney of New York and Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii joined her. All are Democrats.
The fasters’ permit for the tents they’ve pitched on the National Mall and use during the day continues through the end of the year. There is actually a complex of a few tents that provide the campaign office space and a rear tent that is open only to those involved in the campaign.
One that is used to hold public events is festooned inside and out with drawings and paintings, a copy of a photo of Mahatma Ghandi, a quilt with notes of support, a space heater and other placards with supportive slogans.
Earlier in the week, Obama had saluted the fasters in a speech on immigration in Chinatown where he was interrupted by a youth demanding he suspend deportations.
Also on Thanksgiving Day, Michelle Obama had sent out a tweet recognizing the fasters:
Previous visitors have included Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and feminist Gloria Steinem.
Congress is on recess. The House returns next week. The Senate passed a sweeping immigration reform bill that the House has refused to take up and House Speaker John Boehner said the House will not go to a conference committee on that bill. The House is passing separate bills that each deal with aspects of immigration reform.
The fasters want a vote on the issue this year, but few days remain in this half o the two-year congressional session.