Updated 05:21 PM EST, Mon, Mar 01, 2021

Immigration Reform 2013: Obamas Visit 'Fast for Families' Protesters; Reform Advocates Look to 2014

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As the year comes to a close, immigration reform advocates are facing the fact that comprehensive immigration reform will most likely not happen by the end of 2013. Advocates are now shifting their focus to 2014, when the contentious battle over reform will reach greater heights in the election year.

Reform advocates want to keep the immigration debate alive until lawmakers pass comprehensive reform.

"We need to keep fanning the flames," said Eduardo Nevares, auxiliary bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix and immigration-reform advocate.

Some activists have taken drastic measures to push for reform, such as the "Fast for Families" group, which has given up all sustenance except water during the protest. On Friday, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama visited the protesters, who reside in tents on the National Mall, CNN reports. President Obama visited the tent to express his support for their cause and discuss their concerns.

Many activists want President Obama to take unilateral action by stopping deportations and expand his deferred-action program to more undocumented immigrants, USA Today reports.

A heckler at Obama's speech in San Francisco's Chinatown on Monday vocalized his belief that Obama should carry out such reforms.

"Mr. President, please use your executive order to halt deportations for all 11.5 million undocumented immigrants in this country right now," the heckler shouted.

According to San Jose Mercury News, the heckler was Ju Hong, 24, a University of California-Berkeley graduate and immigrant without legal status from South Korea.

"We agree that we need to pass comprehensive immigration reform. But at the same time you have the power to stop deportations for all undocumented immigrants in the country," Hong yelled.

"Actually, I don't," Obama responded.

"If in fact I could solve all these problems without passing laws in Congress, then I would do so. But we are also a nation of laws," Obama continued. "And so the easy way out is to try to yell and pretend I can try and do something by violating our laws. And what I am proposing is the harder path, which is to use our democratic process to achieve the same goal you want to achieve."

Activists are also targeting Republicans in congressional districts with large Latino populations in an effort to press for reform.

"As much as it looks bleak for action this year, we haven't given up," said Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that advocates for immigration reform. "If this Congress doesn't get immigration reform done, then a lot of us are going to work as hard as we can to elect a Congress in 2014 that will."

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said on Sunday that immigration reform is still alive, but was vague about a timeline for taking action.

House GOP leaders, who have been intransigent on the issue, said they may prefer a piecemeal approach to passing an immigration reform bill.

Obama said that he is willing to pass a bill step-by-step rather than take the comprehensive approach. "They're suspicious of comprehensive bills, but if they want to chop that thing up into five pieces, as long as all five pieces get done, I don't care what it looks like as long as it's actually delivering on those core values that we talk about," Obama said at a Nov. 19 Wall Street Journal event.

Yet, Obama said the House bills must address the same issues as the Senate's bill, which was passed in June. The Senate-passed bill includes a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants, and addresses border security, new visas for foreign workers and more.

A number of House immigration bills have introduced, but none have been brought to the floor for a full vote.

Petra Falcon, director of Promise Arizona, an advocacy group pushing for reforms, said she is still hopeful that a bill will pass this year. But if it doesn't, she said her group will push lawmakers to pass immigration reform in 2014.

"In 2014, we've got to continue broadening the electoral base," Falcon said.

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