This item has been updated.
Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.) agreed Tuesday to join other activists in an ongoing fast designed to compel the House of Representatives to begin debating proposals to overhaul the nation's immigration laws.
At a ceremony on the Mall two blocks from the U.S. Capitol, Kennedy ceremoniously began his fast by accepting a small cross from Eliseo Medina, a longtime immigration rights activist and labor leader who was concluding a 22-day fast Tuesday.
Medina's fast will also be continued by Rev. Jim Wallis, of Sojourners. Kennedy plans to fast through midday Wednesday and "pass it on" to other activists Wednesday, he said in brief comments to reporters.
"Immigration reform is something that’s been important to my family. My uncle was a champion of it when he was in the Senate," Kennedy said in reference to his great uncle, the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.). "At this point, we need to get some movement on this bill and whatever we can do to try to break the logjam is important, so I wanted to be a part of it."
Kennedy, 33, is a freshman lawmaker who last year won the seat of former Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.).
Tuesday's ceremony was attended by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Labor Secretary Tom Perez, a slate of Democratic House lawmakers, and religious and labor leaders, including Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr.
Asked whether she was willing to participate in the fast, Pelosi told reporters that she's already "fasting a day here and there." As for Kennedy's participation, "He's young," she said.
Medina and three others -- Sojourners's Lisa Sharon Harper, an immigration activist from Arizona, Cristian Avila, and Korean-American rights activist Dae Joong Yoon -- have been fasting since November to draw attention to the refusal of House Republican leaders to hold votes in the full House on proposals to address immigration. They have spent most of the day in specially-heated tents and the night in nearby churches and hotels.