President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama Friday met with protesters calling for the Republican-led House to take up immigration reform, drawing attention to advocates refraining from eating while the legislation sits on the back burner in the lower chamber.
“The president and the first lady are visiting individuals taking part in Fast For Families on the National Mall and offer their support for those who are fasting on behalf of immigration reform," said a White House official.
"Since Nov. 12, immigration activists comprising Fast For Families have abstained from all food except water and are calling for the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives to take up action on comprehensive immigration reform,” the official added.
A White House official said Obama told the protesters that the American public was behind their cause.
"The president told them that it is not a question of whether immigration reform will pass, but how soon," a White House official said. "He said that the only thing standing in the way is politics, and it is the commitment to change from advocates like these brave fasters that will help pressure the House to finally act."
In recent weeks, Vice President Joe Biden, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, chief of staff Denis McDonough and Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett have also met with the protesters.
House GOP leaders insist, however, that they will not take up the Senate immigration bill passed in June. Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said Republicans will tackle the issue in a piecemeal fashion so as to avoid a sweeping, Obamacare-style law.
Obama has recently embraced the piecemeal approach but said the final blueprint must address immigration comprehensively, including a path to citizenship for the 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally.