Friday, 24 March 2017

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Orlando Trust Coalition urges legislators pass protections for immigrants

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The TRUST Orlando Coalition Friday unveiled statewide legislation designed to protect the safety and constitutional rights of Florida’s immigrant communities.

Carmen Torres, wife of Senator Victor Torres, and Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith, spoke on the steps of Orlando City Hall urging passage of House Bill 1407 and Senate Bill 1674.

“Florida is home to 925,000 undocumented immigrants, and 110,000 live in the Orlando Metropolitan area,” said Smith, whose parents were immigrants. “This is very urgent legislation that will protect our hardworking immigrants.”

The bills would protect the constitutional rights of immigrants and prevent harassment from law enforcement without a court order. It would also prohibit Florida’s public schools and universities from releasing information about immigrant families to federal officials.

Smith conceded that the bills might be difficult to pass.

“It will be really challenging,” said Smith. “But we need to send a message that there are leaders that have their (immigrants) back.”

Fernan Lauro Gregorio, an 18-year-old UCF student who moved to the U.S. from Argentina in 2004, said he lives in fear for his family.

“We fear for our family members, not aliens, who might hear a knock on their door and ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) might come and get them,” Gregorio said.

More than 40 people gathered on the steps of City Hall and carried posters that said “We are here to stay” and “All families united to protect immigrants and refugees.”

“We are sending a loud message that we are united in solidarity, justice and equality,” said Rasha Mubarak, a Palestinian, Muslim American who is a member of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Florida. “Let us stop this rhetoric of hate and division.”

TRUST Orlando Coalition is a collaboration of 28 nonprofits that have banded together to protect immigrants and refugees. Groups that attended Friday included The Farmworker Association of Florida, The Interfaith Council of Central Florida, Council on American-Islamic Relations and UNITE HERE Local 737.