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Immigrant activists plan 5-day fast, sit-in at lawmaker's office

More than three dozen immigration activists descended upon the office of Florida Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart on Friday in a protest action. Some plan to remain there, and to fast, for five days in an effort to pressure the lawmaker into working harder to get comprehensive immigration reform passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. Diaz-Balart has long supported reform and is one of the “Gang of Eight” representatives in the House who worked to create a bipartisan bill that could pass muster. That group has shrunk to five, however, with Diaz-Balart the only Republican still on board.

It may seem that Diaz-Balart is an odd target for the protest, and indeed his chief of staff said so. He told reporters it was ironic that the activists haven’t taken the Obama Administration for deporting people at a record rate, yet they protest a congressman “recognized as one of the few people who has and continues to pour all his energy into getting immigration reform passed."

The activists, however, don’t see it that way. "Actions speak louder than words," said one. "He's my Congressman. I'm a U.S. citizen. The community is tired of waiting."

Another said, “We meet with them over and over again. We need results and not more words.”

The action the protestors are pressing Diaz-Balart to take is to throw his support behind a recent bill recently introduced by his fellow Representative Joe Garcia -- or to produce one of his own. Garcia’s bill has the support of nearly 180 Democrats, but it needs a significant number of Republican votes to pass.

The protestors unveiled a banner depicting stick figures of adults being deported and their children being sent to foster care.

One of those participating in the fast is a 24-year-old woman who has lived in the U.S. for a decade, and whose mother and brother are both U.S. citizens. Because her mom didn’t become a citizen until the woman was 21, however, she expects to have to wait years or even decades to get a family-sponsored green card. Meanwhile, the U.S. deports an average of 1,000 people every day.

Diaz-Balart was not in the office, but his chief of staff said he is trying to develop a solution that "will stop the separation of families, protect the rule of law and help the economy."

Source: Tampa Bay Times, “Immigrants sit in at US Rep Diaz-Balart's office,” Laura Wides-Munoz, Associated Press, Oct. 11, 2013

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