3 immigration protesters end their fast at Capitol steps

WASHINGTON — After 21 days without eating, three protesters who want House Republicans to pass an immigration overhaul bill ended their fast Tuesday by sharing a loaf of bread and a cup of organic apple juice at the steps of the Capitol, but other protesters immediately began fasting in their place.

The three, including labor leader Eliseo Medina, 67, said that they drank only water over the last three weeks and that each lost more than 20 pounds.

Dae Joong Yoon, a Korean American community leader from Los Angeles, was hospitalized briefly Sunday for low levels of sodium but kept fasting until Tuesday.

Christian Avila, a 23-year-old student from Phoenix, joined the fast in part because he wants Congress to change the law so that his parents, who don’t have immigration papers, can stay in the United States.

They and other protesters have occupied a white tent on the National Mall, where they received visitors, held strategy meetings, prayed and napped.


A stream of politicians and celebrities came to lend support in recent days, including President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, as well as Vice President Joe Biden, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and two California Republicans, Reps. David Valadao of Hanford and Jeff Denham of Turlock.

The protesters who took up the fast Tuesday include Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Mass.), a grandson of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy; Bernice King, daughter of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.; and several religious leaders.

King said she planned to stop eating and to pray for the House to pass an immigration reform law. “I am a fifth-generation preacher and I call on all preachers and all brothers and sisters to join me in this fast,” she said.

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the archbishop emeritus of Washington, said he hoped House Republicans would be touched by the protesters’ sacrifice. “Today we end one fast and begin another.... We can no longer wait for immigration reform,” he said.

The Senate narrowly passed an immigration bill in June that would spend more than $30 billion on border security and create a system to allow millions of people in the country illegally to apply for citizenship eventually. That bill has stalled in the House.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has said he will not bring the Senate bill up for a House vote. Instead, House Republicans are drafting a series of narrow bills to change aspects of immigration law.

No House legislation is expected to include a pathway to citizenship for those in the country illegally, and none of the bills is expected to be brought to a vote this year, as the immigration advocates had hoped.