Four immigration activists ended their 22-day fast that was aimed to pressure lawmakers to overhaul the nation's immigration system, while a new group of advocates took their place to continue the call for an immediate vote on reform.
The demonstrators announced on Tuesday that they were ending their hunger strike after unsuccessfully, for now, prompting House Speaker John Boehner to pass immigration reform legislation.
The new group that has taken their place now includes Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.), Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition and Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners among others.
"As we fasted, the American people responded with overwhelming support and solidarity," said the group of original fasters that included Eliseo Medina of the Service Employees International Union, Cristian Avila of Mi Familia Vota, Dae Joong Yoon of the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium, and Lisa Sharon Harper of Sojourners, in a statement.
They added, "Thousands chose to fast and pray, reigniting the power of the immigration reform movement and strengthening our spirits and determination. However, Speaker Boehner is not listening. He has failed to act and move forward with immigration reform legislation in the House."
The group said they invited Boehner to meet with them at their tent on the National Mall several times to discuss options for a new system that could possibly provide citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants but were unsuccessful in getting a response. Now, the second group of activists hopes the Republican-led House will come to a decision during the days that are left in their congressional schedule.
"The reason we're here is because we believe we're going to win immigration reform," said Salguero, reports the Huffington Post. "How do I know we're going to win? Because there's a fierce urgency of now. We're turning over our plates in Advent because we're expecting a miracle. And people in faith, we believe in miracles."
In June, the Senate passed an immigration bill that would spend more than $30 billion on border security in addition to creating a reformed immigration system and although the House is back in session, the possibility of passing a comprehensive bill before congress shuts down for the year remains unknown.
Boehner has not said when the House will vote on the issue but has acknowledged that they will consider addressing immigration in a series of smaller bills instead of one large overhaul. Furthermore, Boehner's recent decision to hire Rebecca Tallent, director of immigration policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center, as assistant to the Speaker has sparked hope in advocates who view his choice as a sign that he may pursue legislation in 2014.
In the meantime, the fasters remain hopeful with the help of key supporters. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama visited them last week to encourage them while reassuring that Boehner is sincere in wanting to get immigration reform done.
Over the last three weeks, their efforts have turned into a movement that has gained the support of other political leaders, celebrities and immigrant families alike. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has also been a supporter and was on hand during a ceremony at the House gallery earlier this week in which the fasters were recognized for their fast and determination.
"Make your point, but understand that some of these people in the building don't care what you do, because they're just not going to be moved," Pelosi said to the fasters, according to the Huffington Post. "But let's hope that the speaker is moved, so he will bring the bill to the floor."