WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Obama paid a visit Friday to a group of activists who have been fasting for weeks in the hopes of pressuring Congress to pass new immigration laws.
The President and his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama, visited the group on the National Mall to lend support for the cause. The “Fast for Families” protesters have given up all sustenance except water during their protest, which they hope will force lawmakers to take up immigration reform measures pending on Capitol Hill.
During his visit, Obama said he appreciated the attention the protesters were bringing to the issue, and that he was optimistic immigration reform could pass.
The President has pushed for an overhaul to the nation’s immigration system, most recently during a speech in San Francisco on Monday. He praised the fasting protesters during those remarks, saying the group was “sacrificing themselves in an effort to get Congress to act.”
“I want them to know we hear you. We’re with you. The whole country hears you,” Obama said during his remarks in California.
Other top White House officials, including Vice President Joe Biden, chief of staff Denis McDonough and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett have also dropped in on the group in the last week.
Cecilia Munoz, the director of Obama’s domestic policy council, wrote on the White House blog that during her visit, the fasters “described empty stomachs but full hearts as they receive an outpouring of support; to date, more than 3000 people around the country have committed to fasting in solidarity.”
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Obama has been pushing for the changes to immigration for the past several months after a bipartisan Senate plan failed to gain traction in the Republican-controlled House. The measure calls for an eventual pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently in the United States while ramping up border security measures.
Some Republicans in Congress say the citizenship element amounts to amnesty, and have vowed to oppose it. House Speaker John Boehner has hinted he’ll bring up immigration reform measures individually, rather than in a comprehensive bill.