Obama visits Washington activists fasting for immigration

President Barack Obama, center, meets on the National Mall with people taking part in the “Fast For Families” protest in support of immigration reform.
President Barack Obama, center, meets on the National Mall with people taking part in the “Fast For Families” protest in support of immigration reform.

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama told activists who are fasting to protest inaction in Congress on immigration legislation that their “commitment to change” ultimately will help pressure lawmakers to act.

On the day after the U.S. harvest holiday of Thanksgiving, marked by an abundance of food, Obama stopped in at a heated tent on the National Mall, home to Washington’s most famous monuments, where some activists have drunk only water since Nov. 12 in support of immigration legislation.

Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner has refused to schedule a vote on a comprehensive immigration measure the Senate passed this summer that would offer a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally and tighten border security.

Many Republicans question offering citizenship to people who broke U.S. immigration laws.
“I want everybody to know I remain optimistic that we’re going to get this done,” Obama said, according to video of his remarks.

The White House issued a statement after the approximately 40-minute visit that said Obama thanked the hunger strikers “for their sacrifice and dedication and told them that the country is behind them on immigration reform.”
Organizers of the fast said Obama expressed concern for the health of the hunger strikers, and he held the shoe of an immigrant who died in the Arizona desert while trying to enter the U.S.

Immigration frustrations have been in the news in recent days. One man who was part of a backdrop for an Obama speech in California shouted during the President’s speech for Obama to stop separating families by deporting people who are living in the country illegally.

Obama was the latest administration official to visit with the hunger strikers. Vice President Joe Biden, Cabinet secretaries and top White House advisers have also visited.

Obama won about 70 percent of the Hispanic vote in his re-election last year, leading some Republicans in the Senate to take a different approach than their House colleagues, expressing concern that the party’s opposition to immigration reform could hurt future election prospects by alienating the rapidly growing Latino voting bloc.

Pressure to act
Advocates are demanding that President Barack Obama use his powers as chief executive to stop deportations or provide some relief to many of the 11 million immigrants living in the US illegally.

Pro-immigrant groups are frustrated with the failure of House Republicans to tackle immigration, But Obama insists that the nation’s laws limit his ability to act unilaterally, even though his administration acted on its own last year to suspend deportations of some immigrants brought illegally into the country as children and more recently decided some relatives of US service members living here illegally could remain.

The administration has also quietly changed the rules for immigrants from Visa Waiver Program countries, people who arrived in the US legally but stayed longer than the 90 days the program allows. Now people from the 37, mostly European, countries in the program who are immediate relatives of US citizens can apply to stay in the United States legally.

The moves stand in sharp contrast to the actions of Obama’s Homeland Security Department, which has deported a record 1.47 million people during the President’s nearly five years in office, according to internal Immigration and Customs Enforcement data. Heckling of the President during California appearances underscored the dissatisfaction with the Democratic president, not only over the stalled immigration overhaul but also the administration’s policies.

“Stop deportations! Stop deportations!” audience members yelled at Obama during a speech in San Francisco that was interrupted by a young man who said his family has been separated for 19 months.

“Executive order” was the rallying cry at a separate Democratic fundraiser. Obama, the former instructor in constitutional law, responded to the criticism with a brief lesson in the nation’s rules. -AP

0 - 0

Thank You For Your Vote!

Sorry You have Already Voted!