Families rally in Tampa for immigration reform

- Immigration groups rallied in downtown Tampa on Friday, the anniversary of legislation created to protect them from deportation.

Protesters said rather than seeing improvement in our country’s immigrant tolerance, people are becoming less tolerant.

On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced the creation of the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program and the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Both programs were designed to allow immigrants already in the U.S. to be exempt from deportation until more permanent immigration reform is put in place.

“This was supposed to be put into play to protect families while some sort of immigration reform system was put in,” said Daniel Barajas, director of the Young American Dreamers, ”because everybody knows the system is broken.”

The programs have been blocked in the courts, making it difficult for many undocumented immigrants to remain in the country.

The family of Rafael Gaytan spoke at Friday’s rally on his behalf. Gaytan, a native of Mexico, has not been able to return to his home in Auburndale for months since returning to Mexico to care for sick family members. His wife, and children, who are U.S. citizens, have been fighting for his return.

“They’re broken families. They’re families living in fear, and as a child, nobody should have to do that,” said Barajas.

Protesters marched down Kennedy Boulevard to the office of Attorney General Pam Bondi. They presented a petition with signatures in support of pushing legislation for DAPA and DACA to move forward.

Concern over opening U.S. borders in an age of terrorism is widespread, reaching the top tier of presidential candidates.

“We have to stop illegal immigration…We have to build a wall,” said Donald Trump at a recent rally.

Many Americans seem to share the same sentiments. Bill Wickline, a Navy veteran, stood outside the Hillsborough County Court House with an American flag and a sign on his car that read, “Close our borders now.” He believes immigrant workers are hurting the American economy.

“It’s the first time I can remember that the median wage in this country has declined year after year. We don’t need any more cheap labor,” said Wickline.

“You couldn’t get citrus picked in this state if it wasn’t for Hispanics,” said Steve Richards, a retired citrus worker from Polk County. Richards marched along with Hispanic protesters on Friday.

“I understand what their struggles are and what kind of problems they go through trying to work their way up,” continued Richards.

Protesters said it’s important for politicians to think long-term when making decisions about immigration, because the next generation of voters in America could be largely Hispanic.

“You can’t run a country if you can’t even protect the family. All of these children will one day be 18, they’re going to be registered voters, and they’re going to remember who stood up for their families and who attacked their families,” said Barajas.

Friday’s rally was hosted by Young American Dreamers (YAD), Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC), Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) local chapters.

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