As the least productive Congress in history begins to wind down its first legislative session, immigration reform is coming to a boil.
It’s already been 160 days since the Senate passed its immigration bill and the House already has 191 co-sponsors on its bipartisan bill. Still, House Republicans have failed to take the next step and have only voted on one immigration provision so far this year — Steve King’s (R-Iowa) amendment to defund DACA and deport DREAMers.
And with King (most famous for saying young immigrants have “calves the size of cantaloupes” from lifting 75 pound bags of drugs across the border) at the helm for Republicans on immigration, it’s no wonder that they’re getting nowhere on immigration.
But the tragic irony of all of this is that King’s own constituents (myself included) overwhelmingly support immigration reform. Recent polling by The American Action Network, a conservative outside group, shows that 79 percent of voters in his district support the tenets in the Senate Gang of Eight bill. Despite that popularity, King and his shrinking list of allies in the House have kept Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) from addressing the moral crisis afflicting millions of workers, children, mothers, and fathers.
For weeks now, immigration advocates have been fasting just yards from congressional office buildings demanding that Boehner bring immigration reform up for a vote. And today, faith and community leaders from King’s district delivered letters of thanks and encouragement to the fasters on the National Mall. Letters like the one Judy Hauswald of Sioux Center, Iowa, who wrote:
Your prayers and fasting to support immigration reform are very much appreciated! There are many of us from Steve King’s district in Northwest Iowa that have been praying for and working hard to let others know why immigration reform is absolutely necessary to Iowa and the U.S.! Thank you for your commitment!
Or Dr. Valerie Stokes, from Orange City, Iowa, who said:
We, as Christians, are called to love our neighbors, especially the sojourners, as ourselves. And, Jesus himself advocated against traditions, customs, and laws that were unjust. In light of this, I stand in agreement with your calling to fast.
For the 79 percent of us in Northwest Iowa who believe Congress should move on immigration, we don’t need to change Rep. Steve King’s mind — luckily for us, his anti-immigrant tactics are nothing compared with the overwhelming bipartisan support for reform in the House. But we do need Speaker Boehner to stand with us — and the millions of people calling for a fix to our immigration system — and bring immigration reform to a vote.
You can see all of the thank you notes sent from community leaders in Steve King’s district to the fasters on the National Mall here.
Matt Hildreth, a former Sojourners staff member and intern, is the director of online programs at America’s Voice.