For three immigration activists in Washington, D.C., this Thanksgiving won't include plates of turkey, stuffing or pumpkin pie. Instead, they will be fasting on the National Mall in the name of immigration reform.
"For us, this will be the first time that we have been away from our families during this holiday, and instead, we will be celebrating Thanksgiving on the Mall, drinking only water instead of eating turkey or watching a football game," Eliseo Medina, who has fasted for 15 days, said in a news conference Tuesday. "We do so because we feel compelled to help mend a broken and inhumane immigration system that is bringing so much pain and suffering to our communities and to our nation."
Medina, who works for the Service Employees International Union, and two other immigration advocates, Cristian Avila of Mi Familia Vota and Dae Joong Young of the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium, have gone without food for 15 days straight, drinking only water as they raise awareness for the need for comprehensive immigration reform.
"We will continue to fast because there are millions of immigrants who labor to put food on our tables but whose own tables will have empty seats at this Thanksgiving dinner. Those seats should be filled with family members who unlike us cannot join them because they have been deported or because they died a lonely death in the desert trying to come to America. They cannot count their blessings because of the constant fear of arrest and deportation," Medina said.
Medina says he has lost 20 pounds over the past 15 days.
The three men are part of a group called Fast for Families, which has assembled in tents for the past two weeks on the National Mall. The activists have received attention from the White House, with President Obama mentioning their efforts in speeches and Vice President Joe Biden dropping by for a visit last week. Various Democratic and Republican members of Congress have also met with the fasters over the past two weeks.
But the group's main target is House Speaker John Boehner, who they are encouraging to hold a vote on the comprehensive immigration reform plan that passed the Senate this summer.
Last week, Boehner said immigration reform was "absolutely not" dead in the House of Representatives, but he said it won't be dealt with on a comprehensive basis.
"Is immigration reform dead? Absolutely not," Boehner said in a news conference Thursday. "I believe that Congress needs to deal with this issue. Our committees are continuing to do their work. There are a lot of private conversations that are underway to try to figure out, how do we best move on a commonsense, step-by-step basis to address this very important issue … because it is a very important issue."