U.S. House Speaker John Boehner recently stated that there will not be any conference committee in order to find a compromise on the bipartisan Senate immigration reform bill. The American people are hearing one excuse after another about how immigration reform is too complicated and how there isn’t enough time for a vote. After months of dithering, it’s clear that House leaders are hoping to run out the clock on immigration.
If it holds true that the House doesn’t vote on any other immigration bills, then an amendment to deport young people eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program – which passed with overwhelming GOP support in June – will be the only immigration measure to have received a vote on the floor of the House in 2013.
That track record stands in stark contrast to the U.S. Senate, which passed bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform in late June. Since then, more than 150,000 people have been deported. The human cost of inaction on immigration reform by the House of Representatives is extremely damaging to communities here in North Carolina and across the country.
That’s why immigrant rights, faith and labor leaders announced the launch of “Fast for Families: A Call for Immigration Reform and Citizenship” (www.fast4families.org) taking place on the National Mall, steps away from the Capitol. Leaders and immigrant members of the community are fasting every day and night, abstaining from all food-except water-to move the hearts and compassion of members of Congress to pass immigration reform with a path to citizenship.
The fast in Washington, DC is being held in conjunction with dozens of local and solidarity fasts, events, and actions already underway in key congressional districts across the country. Fasters are joined nationwide by groups and activists who are prepared to make sacrifices for the passage of immigration reform with a path to citizenship.
The truth is that passing immigration reform isn’t a matter of the calendar; it’s a matter of will. In fact, there are enough votes to pass immigration reform with a path to citizenship today. The House has forty days – the rest of November and December to find time to schedule it. Despite the grave urgency of the situation, however, there are only eight days left on the legislative calendar to cast votes, and many pundits agree that the House leadership is content to run out the clock without any real progress. Even with the holidays approaching and the never-ending cycle of political fundraisers, the leadership could easily clear the calendar and make it happen if it were truly a priority.
In a letter addressed to Speaker Boehner, a group of fasters said: “While we understand and appreciate your wish to work part-time for the rest of the year while receiving the benefits of full-time employment, immigrants and working people don’t have that luxury. We have to show up and do our jobs every day, lest our pay get docked or be fired for dereliction of duty. Like us, working people, we need the House to show up and do its job. Again, as you [Speaker Boehner] have eloquently said [about immigration reform], ‘inaction is not an option.”
After visiting with activists in DC, Salt Lake City Catholic Bishop John Wester said: “I’m very grateful because I’m hoping that it will communicate to our people in the United States the need for immigration reform – that it’s not just politics. This is a human issue that calls for courageous action on the parts of our elected officials. And for every day that they dally and dither and don’t do anything, people are suffering.”
This fight is personal to us. Every day the House fails to act on immigration reform is another day when 1,100 families are ripped apart by senseless deportation. This holiday season, when we hold our families close; let’s pray that our elected officials will finally do their jobs.
Chris Liu-Beers is a program associate at the North Carolina Council of Churches.