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Delaying vote on immigration is immoral

By Debbie Wasserman Schultz
December 12, 2013 -- Updated 1235 GMT (2035 HKT)
Eliseo Medina, right, who was fasting in support of immigration reform with Fast for Families, talks with fellow fasters on December 2
Eliseo Medina, right, who was fasting in support of immigration reform with Fast for Families, talks with fellow fasters on December 2
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Debbie Wasserman Schultz visited tent where people are fasting for immigrants' rights
  • Wasserman Schultz: Fasters are courageous and committed, sacrificing for what is right
  • She says they want Speaker Boehner to set a vote on the immigration bill in the House
  • She says "This is not a political issue, it's a human issue and delaying a vote is immoral"

Editor's note: Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

(CNN) -- Last week, I had the honor to visit the Fast for Families tent on the national mall. The fasters welcomed me with open arms and a smile despite their struggle. The tent was full of messages of encouragement, expressions of admiration and symbols that remind every visitor of the reason for the fasters' sacrifice: the rights of immigrants and a House vote on the Senate immigration bill.

Volunteers explained the meaning behind each symbol: a shoe they found abandoned in the desert represents the immigrants who lost their lives in search of a better life in the United States; the bottle of cough syrup that has a $75 price tag attached to it represents the many abuses -- physical and economic -- that immigrants suffer trying to come to this country.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Several courageous fasters recalled their stories. Their strength, passion and commitment was clear. One story in particular hit close to home. Rosemarie Soto, an undocumented mother from Arizona who fasted for several days, explained that she constantly worries about being separated from her young children and not being able to see them again. As a mother, I can't imagine not being with my kids and not seeing them grow. Seeing Soto's pain and the fear in her eyes, and the love and sadness in her voice as she asked me in tears: "Tell Speaker Boehner to give us a vote," overcame me with emotion.

Fighting injustice is not a hobby. It's a way of life that requires commitment and unrelenting focus. The fasters embody this way of life and they represent millions of people who are struggling to keep their families together and be treated with dignity. The struggle of the immigrant community is our collective struggle. This is a humanitarian crisis that must be solved.

Obama visits hunger strike protesters

Some have ended their fasts, some recently started. I intend to fight side by side with the fasters, every step of the way until the end, and encourage my Republican colleagues to consider the incredible sacrifice that these men and women have made for the immigrant community, and talk to the many families who are most affected by the GOP obstructionism.

House Speaker John Boehner should make it a priority to do what's right for the 11 million undocumented people living in the United States, instead of caving into the GOP's extreme party politics. My Republican colleagues must simply allow a vote and stop standing in the way of immigration reform.

So, as a mother and a lawmaker, I stand with the fasters calling on Boehner to lead, and help pass immigration reform. I challenge him to live up to the American people's expectations and to honor their wishes -- to stop listening to those in the Republican Party who oppose immigration reform and to do what is right. This is not a political issue, it's a human issue and delaying a vote is immoral.

The fasters' silent sacrifice is sending a very loud and clear message, and their actions are inspiring thousands across the country -- including members of Congress -- to join them in fast. Their efforts won't be in vain. We will get this done.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

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