As part of ongoing nationwide sit-ins and other actions, a group of Florida organizations battling for immigration reform held simultaneous rallies yesterday in front of the offices of U.S. Sen. George LeMieux to pressure him to endorse the DREAM Act and the AgJOBS bill.

The DREAM Act “offers a path to legal status to deserving high-school graduates who stay out of trouble and attend college or serve in the U.S. military for at least two years.” The AgJOBS act, meanwhile, seeks ”to improve agricultural job opportunities, benefits, and security for aliens in the United States, and for other purposes.”

LeMieux’s Miami staff would not comment on the rally; D.C. press secretary Jessica García sent this wrtitten statement:

Senator LeMieux has met personally with a number of Dream Act supporters including Trail of Dreams representatives in Washington in April and welcomes constituents visiting his district offices to express their concerns. He believes children should not have to pay for the transgressions of their parents, but at the same time we have to be careful any change in federal law doesn’t have the unintended consequence of incentivizing additional illegal immigration. Senator LeMieux feels the current Dream Act as written does not provide a long-term solution to the student’s situation. A child that enters the country illegally on the day after the Durbin bill becomes law will be in exactly the same position as current students.

Close to 100 activists who represent day laborers, farm workers, residents, families, students and lawyers attended the rally. Many attendees were also members of Florida Immigrant Coalition, Students Working for Equal Rights, The Farmworker Association of Florida, We Count Community Worker Center, Florida Immigration Advocacy Center, Power U, Miami Workers Center/Miami in Action, Haitian American Youth of Tomorrow, South Florida Jobs with Justice and the AFL-CIO.

FLIC communications coordinator Katherine Gorell says, “One in five Floridians is an immigrant. Children of immigrants should have the right to contribute back to the place they call home.”

According to the National Immigration Law Center, 65,000 American-raised students graduating from high school each year would qualify for the DREAM Act. The Migrant Policy Institute estimates approximately 279,000 young persons would likely meet the requirements of the DREAM Act.

Almost 2 million South Florida residents are foreign-born, 37 percent of the population. Children living with more than one foreign-born parent make up more than 54 percent of their demographic group. Over 112,000 foreign-born children under the age of 18 live in the area.

Sebastian — an artist originally from Guatemala, a member of We Count and a current Homestead resident, who didn’t want to give his last name — told TFI, “I’m here to support immigration reform.” He speaks Spanish, English and Qanjobal Akateko, an indigenous language of Guatemala. He estimates that more than 100 families who speak Qanjobal currently live and work in Homestead.

Miami resident David Frederick — born in Haiti and the director of HAYOT — spoke with TFI about his recent visit to Arizona. “I was in Arizona last week and met with kids afraid to go to school,” he says. “I also attended a training on voter registration. Now we want to develop this, work in Florida with all ethnic groups because a law like S.B. 1070 impacts everybody.”

[Pic by Marcos Restrepo]

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