President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama made a surprise visit Friday to speak with immigration advocates who are fasting for comprehensive immigration reform on the National Mall.
The Obamas visited activists taking part in Fast for Families and offered their support. Pool reporters traveling with the president were kept a distance away and couldn’t hear the first couple’s specific remarks to the activists.
Since Nov. 12, the demonstrators have abstained from all food except water and are calling for the Republican leadership in the House to take up action on comprehensive immigration reform.
A White House official said Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, presidential director of the domestic policy council Cecilia Munoz and senior presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett have also visited Fast For Families in recent weeks.
On Friday, the Obamas spoke to the gathering for about half an hour. They were joined by 18 day fasters and two who have been fasting for 18 days: Eliseo Medina and Dae Joong Yoon.
“The president and first lady thanked Eliseo Medina, Dae Joong Yoon and all of the fasters for their sacrifice and dedication, and told them that the country is behind them on immigration reform,” said a White House official. “The president told them that it is not a question of whether immigration reform will pass, but how soon. 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.”
During an immigration speech Monday in San Francisco, Mr. Obama praised the demonstrators, saying, “Right now, I’m seeing brave advocates who have been fasting for two weeks in the shadow of the Capitol, sacrificing themselves in an effort to get Congress to act.”
“I want them to know we hear you,” the president said. “We’re with you. The whole country hears you.”