"We Are Florida" March in Tallahassee

On Thursday, March 17, I joined the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC) in their mobilization to Tallahassee to tell our representatives and Senators that Arizona-style immigration enforcement bills in Florida will hurt us all. Throughout the full day of activities, organized by FLIC’s “We Are Florida!” campaign, we attended a church service recognizing the contributions of immigrants and the hardships they face, lobbied in the Florida Senate and House of Representatives, and participated in a demonstration in front of the State Capitol building.

Lariza and I lobbied with a group that included youth from the Hope Community Center in Apopka and SWER (Students Working for Equal Rights) along with Harvard students visiting on an alternative spring break trip.

We met with Ryan Smith, legislative assistant to Representative Steve Crisafulli (a member of the Agriculture Committee). Our lobbying visit focused on SPB7066, a bill titled “Unauthorized Aliens” that would:

  • Turn local sheriffs into ICE agents who could ask for papers anytime and anywhere when paired with 287(g)
  • Hurt victims of crime and the wrongfully accused and not just those found guilty
  • Increase racial profiling
  • Give law enforcement more work with less compensation
  • Divert taxpayer dollars into immigration enforcement instead of solving crimes or protecting victims
  • Mandate all businesses to implement the E-Verify system.

I was really impressed with the candor and eloquence of our group. They spoke openly about how these bills will affect their lives, hurt the economy, and make all of our communities less safe, and urged our Florida politicians to serve as the voice of their state.

Later on, orange shirts reading “I am Florida!”, “Soy Florida!” and “Nou se Florid!” filled the steps in front of the Capitol Building during the demonstration.

I saw several familiar faces—including farm worker friends from Apopka and Yolanda from the Fellsmere Farm worker Association—and got to meet many new people who are working for justice. Speakers including Representative Darren Soto spoke out against these bills. In a great display of street theater, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) exchanged wedding vows with the local police.

Thanks to FLIC’s “We Are Florida!” for their work against this legislation and for organizing this day. I can only hope our collective message will catch the attention of some of our politicians, and encourage them to be accountable for the decisions that affect us all.

-Katie Gillett
Orlando YAYA

(Photos courtesy of Katie Gillett)

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