Local News

Immigration reform campaign gains energy

SEBRING At the El Bravo Night Club on Thursday evening, no band played on the stage and no one danced to the sound of music. But for the approximately 140 people who attended a meeting there, at least some cause to celebrate existed. Juana Martinez, who came with her husband and children, said she wanted to find out about immigration reform and how it would help her become a citizen after 12 years in the United States. She said after the meeting she became more optimistic about immigration reform. The Farmworker Association of Florida and Immigration Information Advocates organized the meeting to provide information about immigration reform being discussed and to gain support for the movement.
Humberto Ramirez, treasurer of Immigration Advocates, said after the meeting that supporters of immigration reform have traveled to Washington, D.C., and met with members of Congress. "They've already awakened," he said. "They need to awake some more." On the other side of it, he said, immigration reform advocates urge those seeking to take advantage of future law changes to become fluent in English. He said he tells parents, "to help your kids with homework," as that is a good way to begin learning English. Ramirez said the immigration movement is about helping good people whose lives are limited by their inability to gain legal status. In discussions of immigration, the wrong issues get top priority, said Daniel H. Barajas, a member of Young American Dreams, a Polk County organization. Supporters of immigration reform are talking about safe borders when borders are safer, he said. "I want to make sure they don't lose sight of keeping families together." Santos De La Rosa, secretary for Immigration Advocates and a Sebring resident who helped organize the meeting, said he believes the current immigration system is broken. For a legal immigrant to sponsor a sibling, he said, it takes nearly a quarter of a century. "That is not in the American spirit," he said. It's also not right that many adults who came here as children are stuck with limited opportunities for work, despite their abilities, he said. Their parents came here for a better life, he said. 'They come and do jobs that we don't want to do." Those at the meeting said that they believe immigration reform will happen. "If we lose this battle, it doesn't mean it's the end of it," Barajas said.

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