Constituents of Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, held vigils and fasted outside all six of his New York offices yesterday, urging him to vote for immigration legislation that is “in limbo” in the House of Representatives.
According to service representatives at each of the offices, the number of participants were 10 in Washington D.C., 10 in Kingston, eight in Hyde Park, five or six in Kinderhook, four in Cooperstown, two in Delhi, and one in Liberty.
On June 27, the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill that included a path to citizenship for immigrants. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has yet to bring up a comprehensive bill for a vote.
Fast for Our Families began when four people fasted for 22 days on the national mall in Washington D.C., according to a press release from Kat Fisher, Hudson Valley organizer at Citizen Action of New York. Fisher fasted at Gibson’s Kingston office, and said it is time for him to join the 28 Republicans who have supported a path to citizenship.
“We fast not out of anger or despair,” Fisher said, “but out of hope to strengthen our commitment to continue to struggle for common sense and immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship.”
Jo Salas of Bloomville said she fasted from 5 p.m. Wednesday to 5 p.m. Thursday, and held a vigil at Gibson’s Delhi office during the day Thursday. Salas said she believes the lack of immigration reform is a very serious moral crisis.
“Even though immigrants are grateful to be here, respect our society, and want to be part of it, there’s a stigma,” Salas said. “We’re not treating them right. These people are not outlaws. They would love to be citizens. “
Salas said, young, undocumented immigrants who traveled with their parents to the United States and were left with no way to get a job, education, or Social Security card would be provided a pathway to citizenship through the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors). She added that more than 200,000 children have been separated from their parents in the past two years because of deportation.
“In almost every case, immigrants have come here to help their children and give them a better life,” she said. “Yes, it is illegal, but it is like speeding to get your child to the hospital.”
Gibson’s deputy chief of staff, Stephanie Valle, said Gibson is listening to farmers and other constituents and realizes the immigration system is broken and in need of serious reform, including a means to enforce the ultimate agreement.
“As always, we welcome the input of all of our constituents and appreciate the time people took today to register their views in our district offices,” Valle said. “An open and active political dialogue is what makes our country great.”
Valle said the Senate bill in question would only reduce illegal immigration by 33 to 50 percent.
“That does not solve the problem,” Valle said, “and we can do better than that proposal.”