Family members of Emanuel Lopez continued a hunger strike in front of Howard Coble’s Greensboro office today calling on the US congressman to sign a letter in support of Lopez’s asylum request.
Emanuel’s brother Erick and sister Estela were joined by their father, Florentino, who replaced their mother for the third day of the hunger strike due to her low blood pressure.
Lopez’s family members say they will continue the hunger strike until Congressman Coble gets involved or Emanuel is deported, and activists from North Carolina traveled to DC to simultaneously pressure Coble’s office there to no avail this afternoon.
Emanuel Lopez lived in Burlington from age 8-22, graduating from Alamance Community College with an associate’s degree, Erick said. Emanuel, who aspires to work in a hospital, was accepted to UNCG and Guilford College but could not afford tuition and voluntarily returned to Mexico, Erick said.
Coble’s chief of staff, Ed McDonald, said Lopez was one of 150 people with a similar story who presented themselves at the US-Mexico border seeking asylum, adding that Lopez’s appeal will go before a judge on Monday but that Coble will not sign a letter of support.
“We’ve told them we looked at their request, we’re not signing any letters and we’re not going to intervene in the legal process,” McDonald said. “You can present 800 letters to us and we’re just not going to do it. We wouldn’t do it for anybody else. The congressman disagrees with deferred action anyway.”
Despite Coble’s firm stance on immigration, McDonald said his office solicited the opinion of the ethics committee which agreed that “absolutely you should not intervene in the legal process.”
Erick Lopez spoke with Coble in person at his Greensboro office on Monday, launching the hunger strike with his family two days later. He talked with Coble on the phone this morning, he said, and the congressman asked if he had reached out to US Sen. Richard Burr or Sen. Kay Hagan.
Due to the tight time frame, Lopez said they were concerned it would be too difficult to arrange a meeting with another elected official in time. He said Emanuel does have several letters of support from teachers and a Latino business owner, adding that his brother volunteered with a hospital and community organization while living in North Carolina and stayed out of trouble.
“I don’t know what other evidence [Coble] wants proving that he was a good resident,” Erick Lopez said.
Like Coble, Hagan and Burr have a reputation for being unsupportive of immigration reform. [Hagan was one of five Democrats who voted against the Dream Act, according to the News & Observer.]
Erick Lopez said his brother was violently robbed after returning to Mexico, one of the reasons Emanuel is seeking asylum in the United States. McDonald and supporters said Emanuel has also been beaten up and persecuted in Mexico for being gay.
Supporters in DC left Coble’s office after meeting with his legislative director, McDonald said, adding that daily dialogues between staff and the family members on hunger strike has been very cordial.
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