Youth, immigrants, faith-based communities, farm workers, labor unions and allies gathered outside of Senator David Simmons’ office on April 1st to oppose the twelve immigration bills proposed by the Florida legislature.
The action, organized by the Orlando Chapter of the Youth and Young Adult Network of the National Farm Worker Ministry (Orlando YAYA), took place three days before the scheduled vote of SB2040 in the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Senator Simmons is a member.
“SB 2040 is an Arizona law in disguise because it pushes all counties to turn their law enforcement officers into immigration agents. This opens the door to racial profiling against all immigrants regardless of their status, affects the relations between police and immigrant communities, and harms Florida’s brand as well as our economy. It will have the exact same effect we saw in Arizona,” says Katie Gillett from Orlando YAYA.
“We urge Senator Simmons to hear the concerns of the residents in his district, and to represent us in Tallahassee by opposing any law that will attack immigrants, farmworkers and people of color.”
A crowd of 70 advocates wearing Groucho Marx glasses (that symbolized Arizona laws in disguise) chanted outside, while a delegation of three community leaders met with Senator Simmons’ staff to share their stories and concerns.
The delegation was originally planned to include seven members of the community from different backgrounds. Unfortunately, due to concerns by the owners of the building where Simmons’ office is located, only three representatives were allowed and escorted upstairs. The three representatives were Katie Gillett from Orlando YAYA, Sister Barbara Gutierrez from the Hope Community Center and Lucas, a farm worker, member of the Farm Worker Association of Florida.
A representative from Simmons’ office assured the delegation that the Senator was listening to their concerns, but did not comment on whether the senator would publicly admit his support for the bill. Later on we found out that he confirmed to the press that he supports bills like SB2040. The delegation also delivered 350 signatures from community members that asked Senator Simmons to vote against any anti-immigrant bills.
Unfortunately, the speakers scheduled for the action were not allowed to speak during the action. Due to the concerns of the building owner, the police asked the group to keep moving in the sidewalk, making it impossible to pursue the rally portion of the action. This is the problem of Senators having their offices in locations that are not truly accesible to the public.
SB 2040 pushes all counties in Florida to implement the controversial 287(g) immigration program. This same program has turned Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County, AZ, into one of the most feared and sued Sheriffs in the nation. This bill also mandates that businesses implement E-Verify, a program that allows employers to electronically verify employees’ work eligibility. Non-compliant businesses would operate under the threat of having their license revoked. Many businesses in Florida oppose SB2040 for fear of the impact that requirements such as E-Verify could have on small businesses and the overall economy, especially in the tourism and agricultural industries.
Orlando YAYA and their allies will continue to oppose any immigration bills in Florida that threaten to destroy the economy or the stability and civil rights of the immigrant and farm worker communities.
The current language of the bill can be found at: http://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2011/2040/BillText/Filed/HTML
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This action was part of Farm Worker Awareness Week.
Photos courtesy of Katie Gillett