Why Pro-Immigrant Activists Are Turning to Hunger Strikes

Lourdes Medrano, Christian Science Monitor, March 8, 2014

The nine-to-five crowd had thinned out by the time a mostly Latino crowd arrived outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) processing center here to mark the end of a 15-day hunger strike this week.

Weakened by the lack of food, strike participants sat in wheelchairs, surrounded by friends and family, under a sidewalk canopy. They had fasted to call attention to the Obama administration’s deportations and the detention of spouses, children, and siblings, many of whom remain behind bars for being in the country illegally. On Monday, the hungry group savored a bowl of vegetable soup and promised continued protests.

“This doesn’t stop here, we will keep at it,” says Anselma López, a Guatemala native who was briefly hospitalized for health complications after several days of not eating.


Protesters want the president to use his executive powers to end deportations, until Congress can overhaul immigration laws and establish a path to legal status for some 11 million people now in the country illegally.

Critics call the fasts and vigils “protest theater” that aims to stir up emotion but doesn’t fit how federal agents are enforcing the nation’s immigration laws on the ground.

“The kind of enforcement that the activist groups are upset about is interior enforcement, where people living here get caught and get removed,” says Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, which promotes tighter immigration enforcement. “But that kind of enforcement has dropped 40 percent in the last two years.”

The outcry clearly indicates mounting frustration that “a big amnesty” has yet to materialize, she says. “I wonder if the Obama administration might use these demonstrations to further reduce deportations or widen the administrative amnesties that have already been implemented.” 

In Arizona, activists in Phoenix and Tucson have chained themselves to ICE buildings and buses carrying deportees, after immigration reform stalled in the House last July. Similar protests later temporarily derailed ICE operations in Chicago, San Francisco, and Fairfax, Va. Along US-Mexico border crossings, young activists who were deported or left the country on their own in July began testing immigration laws by requesting asylum en masse.

Young men and women in the country unlawfully also have surrendered to authorities with the aim of spending time in immigration detention centers across the country, including one in El Paso, Texas, in November and another near Detroit. Once inside, they document cases of inmates who might be eligible for release.


Although the acts of disobedience vary from state to state, a national campaign dubbed “Not One More Deportation,” organized by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, is sponsoring events to stop expulsions until political winds shift in favor of overhauling immigration laws. On April 5, activists plan to launch an “All Out in the Streets” day of action, including more hunger strikes and marches and sit-ins outside the White House and in other parts of the country.

Protesters blame the Obama administration for about 2 million deportations that they say frequently snare immigrants who lack legal status but are otherwise law-abiding or charged with minor crimes. These deportations, they say, go against 2011 enforcement guidelines that prioritize the arrest and expulsion of serious offenders.


But Ms. Vaughan, at the Center for Immigration Studies, says that criticism of the Obama administration for being too aggressive in enforcing immigration laws is misleading. An ICE directive issued on June 2011 orders agents not to arrest minor criminals, long-time residents, students, parents, caregivers, she writes. For none of these categories is there any “statutory basis for special treatment.”

Moreover, the record of deportations by the Obama administration from 2009-12 averages about 800,000 a year. That compares with 1.3 million a year for President George W. Bush and 1.5 million for President Clinton (the record). The closest comparison for Obama’s record is the Ford administration (1974-76), at 804,000, “when there were a lot fewer people living in the country illegally,” she says.

Perhaps in response to the rising criticism, the federal government in fiscal 2013, for the first time, broke down data that reports deportations from the US interior as well as along the border. The numbers, the most recent available, show that through Sept. 30 authorities deported 368,644 people, a 10 percent decrease from the previous year and the lowest numbers since Obama assumed office in January 2009. Of those, 133,551 occurred in the interior.

About 60 percent of all deportees had criminal convictions, according to the data, which include no details on the type of offenses committed.

Still, for Ms. Andiola and other protesters, the immigration battle is personal. She benefited from Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that suspends deportation for those brought here as children, either unlawfully or on visas that families overstayed. She now has a work permit and a Social Security card. But until her mother, Maria, and other relatives who have had run-ins with immigration authorities can legalize their US status, she vows to keep demonstrating.

“We’re going to make sure that President Obama knows that the Latino community is no longer going to be fooled by more promises,” Andiola adds. “We will escalate as much as we need.”

The president maintains that it is Congress, not he, who has the power to make significant changes to the immigration system. His stance is eroding support among former allies. This week, the National Council of La Raza, the country’s largest Latino advocacy group, joined a growing chorus calling the president “deporter-in-chief.”


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  • Manaphy

    “Weakened by the lack of food, strike participants sat in wheelchairs, surrounded by friends and family, under a sidewalk canopy”

    Good. Starve. More cultural Marxists off the face of the Earth is something I support.

    • Ron Cheaters

      I was going to use that quote, but to say; “the lousy bums are sitting in their cozy wheelchairs and their canopies. Drinking vegetable soup.. which is food. If it was a cause worth fighting for, they’d be rolling on the ground writhing in pain from the hunger pangs.. this is hardly a movement to get your back up.

    • Oil Can Harry

      About time these fat slobs went on a diet.

    • Nancy Thomas

      I would happily give them food, laced with Fukushima runoff.

    • bilderbuster

      I wish they’d said “We’ll emaciate as much as we need”.
      Then there’s the one described as a native of Guatemala who had to be hospitalized for a few days at our expense of course, where I’m sure he chowed down after many expensive tests were preformed only to return to his wheelchair before the cameras.

      The Cubans in Miami did their ” hunger strike” a few years back about some one in a million deportation of one of them. They plopped down on mattresses in front of the Miami Herald with news cameras filming. The “strikers” worked 3 hour shifts yelling in front of the cameras drinking water & then when they were replaced by new “strikers”, went home to eat, sleep & shower.
      They were most likely being paid for this.
      The media never reported that but over & over again they reported how the “hunger strike” continues.

    • Erasmus

      Let them starve. I do not care.

      I am not heartless. I live in what’s considered one of the most livable cities in the US, and I see more and more homeless families, vets and young people. I see unemployment going up. I see our own children and old people denied the services they need, and I’m supposed to care about someone who wants his criminal invasion made legal? My compassion is for my fellow countrymen, NOT for people who should be at home in their own countries.

      People who see the needs of their fellow citizens around them yet want the illegals amnestied are fools. I’m sure they don’t use the money for their children’s educations to take care of the neighbors’ children, so why ever would someone expect us to take care of people here illegally?

  • DaveMed

    In unrelated news: the obesity epidemic in America has taken a surprising turn for the better.

  • Ograf

    I love it, I want to protest something so I starve myself to death. Good idea fellows.

  • It was one thing for Obama and his defenders to lie through their teeth to brag about all the fake deportations that weren’t actually happening, in order to win an election.

    The problem is, if you repeat a lie often enough, brown people with IQs of 90 will actually start believing it’s true.

    • Nancy Thomas


  • JSS

    Let them eat cake then. Or even better turn to eating each other like their glorious Mayan and Aztec ancestors.

  • JackKrak

    For years American was the “most obese” nation on Earth but we’ve recently been replaced (as in so many other ways) by the Mexicans & now we’re “only” #2.

    Should be pretty clear that a big (get it?) reason we were #1 for all those years because we had so many them here to begin with.

    Doesn’t matter what area the stats cover – education, crime, being fat or whatever – real Americans look bad because of the “contributions” of Diversity.

  • IstvanIN

    A normal country would have rounded these people up at gun-point, shooting the non-compliant, and booted them back across the border. They are criminals, law-breakers, hoodlums and invaders who should have NO rights in this country at all. The politician and corporate traitors who allow and support this need to be tried and dispatched.

    • Nancy Thomas

      Ironically, that’s what mexico would do.

  • Pro_Whitey

    I want you to expand that hunger strike to include all illegals, men, women, and children, and even those illegals who claim to be U.S. citizens because they are “anchor babies.” Keep on striking until I’m convinced you should stay. Be patient, it might take a while.

    • 1stworlder

      I might listen to them if they set themselves on fire.

      • A Freespeechzone

        I still wouldn’t give a crap.

      • Irishgirl

        I’d make s’mores.

    • Erasmus

      Let ’em all starve. Not our problem. I couldn’t care less.

      If we give in to their demands, we kiss the US good-bye. If they are amnestied, the whole world knows the US Is over.

  • sbuffalonative

    “We will escalate as much as we need.”

    I hope they do escalate their tactics and I hope they reveal their true nature.

    • Jesse James

      All this will only end in tears but I can guarantee one thing, the tears won’t only be ours anymore.

    • A Freespeechzone

      Let them remember that violent tactics will not stand.

    • Erasmus

      Notice how the CSM isn’t taking comments on this? Can you guess why they aren’t?

  • Luca

    These types of shenanigans in their own countries would have landed them in jail without a hearing or bail. Unless of course, they were unlucky enough to be in the way of the live ammunition that 3rd world countries use for crowd control.

    They pull these stunts here because they know they are enabled by the MSM, labor unions and the bleeding heart liberals.

  • WR_the_realist

    I was hoping to hear that the protestors had actually starved themselves to death. No such luck. I guess they’re just not really dedicated to their cause.

  • Nice of them to take a break from the incest, thefts, and rapes to come out from under the rocks they slithered … uh .. to come out from the shadows and help with preventing food shortages. What patriots they are to think about the rest of us who aren’t eating properly. Thank you, oh great Mexicans for giving up your food so some white child can eat. You are truly humanitarians. Let me encourage you to continue your fast until …

  • borogirl54

    Mainstream America could care less about their hunger strike. I read today that even when Obama made a speech this weekend, some guy stood up on a chair and yelled for him to, “stop the deportations”. Obama ignored him and kept talking. Something that he had not done before.

  • Spartacus

    “On Monday, the hungry group savored a bowl of vegetable soup and promised continued protests. ”


    A hunger strike means you don’t eat anything… Jesus, is there anything these idiots can’t screw up ?

    • 1stworlder

      Its an affirmative action hunger strike.

    • Ron Cheaters

      In all fairness; a hunger strike sounded like a good idea until they became hungry.
      At least the natives drink consumee beef.

    • DaveMed

      They no comprende English.

  • Alexandra1973

    Less for them, more for us, where’s the problem?

  • . . . was briefly hospitalized for health complications after several days of not eating . . .

    More tax money down the drain.

    • Alexandra1973

      Now I see where it CAN be a problem!

    • Kalashnikov

      If it makes you feel any better, your tax money probably didn’t pay for this. Your taxes payed the interest on money the government borrowed to pay for this. I guess that probably won’t make you feel any better.

  • Marc Zuckurburg

    Power to the people! The people that weigh 250 pounds or more and with protruding guts, that is.

    I’m going to hook up with them. It’ll be my way of sticking it to the man.

  • Spartacus

    Speaking of immigration, Italy is now taking in 15 “refugees” that are officially members of an Iranian marxist terrorist group :

  • 1stworlder

    I think if they really want our attention they should set themselves on fire.

    • borogirl54

      The Buddhist monks did it in Mynamar. These folks? They ain’t that dedicated.

      • Kenner

        Spontaneous grease fire?

        • Katherine McChesney

          Mexicans ‘restauranteurs’ set fire to their restaurant three years ago on Gallatin Road in Nashville. They were arrested for arson. Mexican food in Nashville Tennessee is barely edible. It also looks unappetizing.

    • “Fire, fire… fire!”

      “Settle down Beavis. Don’t make me smack you again.”

  • Einsatzgrenadier

    Great, now the immigration enthusiasts are starving themselves so they can have the opportunity to commit genocide against whitey.

  • MBlanc46

    I’d like to encourage more of them to stop eating.

  • Dale McNamee

    Let them starve…

  • Alexandra1973

    Probably looking for a job to pay for the beer, last I knew EBT doesn’t cover alcohol. At least, not in Ohio.

  • evilsandmich

    Protesters want the president to use his executive powers to end deportations

    What’s the dateline on this article? 1953?

  • Katherine McChesney

    Last week the courts determined that the Romeike family may stay in America.