(President Barack Obama, left, listens to Eliseo Medina, right, during an immigration reform fast that ended Dec. 3, 2013 (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais))

Former faster says Boehner can make time for immigration vote this year

The leader of a 21½-day fast for immigration reform says House Speaker Boehner can “make time” for an immigration vote this year.

“However many days are left, the Speaker has the unique authority to address the calendar,”  said Eliseo Medina, an immigration activist with the Service Employees International Union.

Congress previously has met late into the year to finish up and pass such things as sweeping spending bills.

“It’s not something in the Constitution or mandated by anybody. It’s strictly within the power of the speaker. He can make more time at any time to deal with this issue,” Medina said.

In a news conference with reporters Thursday, Boehner was adamant that the House would end business next Friday.

“I’ve made it clear that the House is going to leave next Friday. You all know me pretty well. I mean what I say and I say what I mean,” Boehner said.

But he also has previously said immigration is not dead and that he’s committed to getting it done. He recently added an immigration expert to his staff who is known for helping other Republicans on immigration. He said Thursday he has people on both sides of the aisle working on the issue.

Medina concluded his fast without realizing a goal of getting Boehner to call a vote. He said he lost 26 pounds, continues to be under medical supervision, still feels tired and is building his way back to regular eating. He weighed 184 when he started his fast on Nov. 12.

He said Boehner also has not responded to his letter requesting a meeting, delivered to the speaker’s district office after he marched with other activists from the tent on the National Mall where he and others staged their fast.

Even so, Medina is calling the fast a success because it has driven up attention to the immigration issue and because others are joining in applying pressure on the GOP leadership, some staging their own fasts of a day or more. On Thursday, a group of evangelicals launched ads telling Boehner they are praying for him to call a vote.

“We know that as long as there are so many deaths in the desert and so many families being torn apart, we know that it will be impossible to ignore immigration reform,” Medina said.

Although he wouldn’t say whether he also is directing prayer and pressure at President Barack Obama, Medina said that he also has a responsibility when it comes to deportations. Obama should enforcement is done in humanely and rationally by the Department of Homeland Security and in a way that emphasizes deportation of criminals as Obama dictated.

A group of 29 House Democrats asked Obama in a letter Thursday to suspend deportations of immigrants, something Obama has previously said he cannot do. Current numbers have not been released, but the administration has been closing in on 2 million deportations under the Obama administration.

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