On the seventh day of fasting, nausea and weakness forced Isabel Medina to ask for help getting to the restroom.
The 42-year-old Los Angeles mother of three is fasting with seven others outside of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans. The group is hoping a nine-day fast will pressure a three-judge panel to make a decision in a lawsuit filed by 26 states that are attempting to block implementation of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.
The Obama administration and supporters expect the appellate court to rule against them, but plan on ultimately appealing the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, where they expect a favorable ruling.
However, they are racing against the clock. If the appeals court waits until the end of November to rule, it could be too late for the Supreme Court justices to hear the case this term, pushing the decision into a new, potentially less friendly administration.
Medina, who has been sleeping in a church and drinking only water for the last seven days, told BuzzFeed News on Tuesday she was fasting for her three sons — one of whom is undocumented — and the 11 million immigrants in the United States without legal documentation.
“I feel powerful, empowered,” Medina said in Spanish. “You can’t change the world, but you can be part of worldwide change.”
It's estimated that Obama's executive actions offer temporary deportation protections and work permits to 5 million of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.
Miguel Claros, a 51-year-old mechanic from Maryland who is also fasting, would have benefitted from one of the protections as the parent of a lawful permanent resident. Before Claros could sign up, a federal judge in Texas issued a temporary injunction in February halting the U.S. from shielding more than 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.
The Bolivian-native said it's frustrating to see lawmakers play politics at the expense of Latinos and the undocumented community, adding they’re treated as nothing more than “political instruments.”
A desire to stop politicians from using people like himself for their personal gain is what compelled Claros to join the fast, he said. It hasn’t been easy. On the second day, he was too weak to stand up. That's when he got on his knees and prayed for strength.
“I told God I wasn’t just here for me, but for 11 million other people living in the shadows who have put up with years of discrimination,” Claros told BuzzFeed News. “I think he heard me because I feel like I’m still in my first day.”
If they don’t get an answer this week, Medina, the mother from East L.A., hopes an unfavorable ruling will force more Latinos to take to the polls and vote against leaders trying to block Obama's executive actions.
“That will be our way of continuing the fight,” Medina said. “So that one day, we can get a permanent solution to the country’s immigration issues, not something temporary.”