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We Are Florida! 2016 Campaign and Legislative Session Wrap Up

We Are Florida!

This year, a total of 9 anti-immigrant and anti-refugee bills threatened families in the state of Florida.  It was the  participation and commitment of our members and allies that defeated all 9 bills, and once again led We Are Florida! to victory. Thank you to the thousands of immigrant families, farmworkers, faith leaders, and voters who signed petitions, visited or called their legislators, led local actions and mobilized to Tallahassee to share their stories. We have proven time and time again that when we stand together for what’s right, we are powerful.


We also celebrate the passing of KidCare, which after nearly 10 years of advocating in support, will finally help thousands of  permanent resident children who will no longer have to wait 5 years to  access to health care. We must be cautiously enthusiastic as we await for Governor Scott to sign this bill into law.

We thank Senator Diaz de la Portilla for standing up for our community and stopping these bills from moving in the Senate. We also thank our champions in the House, including Representative Jose Javier Rodriguez, Representative Hazelle Rogers and many others, who stood up in committee meetings and on the House Floor to defend immigrant families and our local governments.


With the legislative session now over, our voter engagement and education programs will launch and gain momentum. We ask for your continuous support as we take on the challenges leading up to November. We have a responsibility to hold our elected officials accountable and to continue to fight for dignity and justice for our loved ones.

We Are Florida! Nou Se Florid! Somos Florida!

We Work, We Vote, We Count!

Nou Travay, Nou Vote, Nou Konte!

Nosotros Trabajamos, Nosotros Votamos, Nosotros Contamos!

We Are Florida!

To see all the pictures from the 2016 We Are Florida! campaign, check out our Facebook Page.

Florida Immigrant Youth Network: Face to Face 2015

The “Face to Face” is a space created to help undocumented young leaders plan, strategize and come together to talk about next steps when it comes to organizing our community. In the previous years we have hold the event in South, Central and North Florida with a presence of about 120 young leaders just our last “Face to Face”.

Register HERE: http://bit.ly/FloridaYouth2015

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El congreso o “Face to Face” es un espacio creado para ayudar a jóvenes líderes indocumentados planear, hacer estrategias y juntarse para poder hablar sobre los pasos siguientes para poder organizar nuestra comunidad. En años pasados hemos tenido el congreso en el Sur, Centro y Norte de la Florida y con la presencia de hasta 120 líderes en el ultimo “Face to Face”.

Inscríbete AQUI: http://bit.ly/FloridaYouth2015

What We Do for Love/Lo Que Hacemos por Amor

Photo: Favianna Rodriguez

On the first day of this year, January 1st, 2010 both young and seasoned immigrant rights leaders in Florida have strategically and provocatively escalated our efforts, including a risky 1,500 mile walk and a life-threatening, INDEFINITE fast. While we endeavor arduously for just and humane immigration reform, we urge the administration to do what it can, NOW, to stop the separation of American families, including halting the deportation of young people.

Fasters include several mothers who will do anything to be with their children, a Puerto Rican man, member of the Miami Workers Center whose wife risks deportation, a Haitian mother, client of Haitian Women of Miami, now shackled with an ankle bracelet, and a female professional truckdriver, the initiator of the fast, who lost her business and her livelihood for her family. Their respective statements will be released within days.

Please help spread the word–and consider skipping a meal and donating that money to support the Fast or Trail!

Below is a statement from one of the fasters, many of you know him, a thoughtful person, grandson of Jewish immigrants, highly respected for his integrity, who has more than 35 years in the social justice and labor movements. Jon, who is over 50 years old, explains why he took on this life-threatening fast after growing weary of the daily, desperate calls of the members of his organization, We Count!

“My name is Jonathan Fried, and I am participating in Fast for Our Families. I am writing this in the evening of Day 2 of the fast. Five of us are fasting indefinitely, as long as it takes; our target is President Obama and our goal is to get him to use the legal authority he has, now, without Congress, to suspend the detention and deportation of immigrants with American families, those who have US citizen children and/or spouses. This is a message to my brothers and sisters in struggle in the immigrant rights movement, and with a special shout out to the members of the National Day Laborers Organizing Network around the country and of the Florida Immigrant Coalition around the state. Thanks to those of you who have sent messages of support. And I know that not everyone knows about the Fast yet, or understands what we are doing.

This decision to fast was not taken lightly. I was tired of getting phone calls from a mother, a father, a brother, a sister saying that their loved ones, their family, was taken away by ICE. Having no response to the question of what to do with their kids. I felt we had two options when it kept on happening. Try to help whatever we could, but accept that ICE was going to continue breaking apart families, one by one or develop a community response and fight back. To be clear, this tactic was not initiated by me, but by our members. I felt, however, that my participation, as an organizer and leader in the community, would strengthen it by bringing to bear the weight of my relationships. Putting my body on the line along with the others, in order to maximize the reach we could have.

For a number of years the noose has been tightening around the neck of immigrant communities. Yet never have things been worse than under the Obama Administration. He is escalating and systematizing the policies of attrition followed under the previous administration, trying to make life so miserable for immigrants that they leave. Increasing local law enforcement’s role in the deportation system; continuing 287g, including with vile racist sheriffs like Joe Arpaio, and expanding Secure Communities, under which persons are deported for the crime of being poor, brown and undocumented, all under the false guise of combating crime; increasing the rate of detentions and deportations of immigrants, using a vast system of government and private prisons, and even secret sub-offices; violent early morning raids on homes; worst of all, is the separating parents from their children.

I understand the political calculation: Show we’re tough on immigrants, and prove to the public that the administration is deserving of comprehensive immigration reform. First, there’s no guarantee that it’s going to get us there. Second, if it does, this strategy does guarantee that it will get us a mean-spirited, punitive immigration reform that will exclude thousands of undocumented persons and ensure further institutionalization of a repressive system that takes away all our rights.

Most urgently, the cost is too high. Now. It’s too painful. It’s too horrific. My friends and neighbors shouldn’t be collateral damage in a political scheme. Parents and youth ripped from their families is not an acceptable cost. Thousands of people marked and tracked with electronic shackles, living in fear of being taken away from their loved ones every time they report to ICE or its private contractors, is not an acceptable cost. Young people being deported to homelands they hardly remember is not an acceptable cost.

It is time to say to President Obama: This is on your watch.

This is our response – the fasters, the organizations involved in the Fast. Tomorrow day laborers will be joining us in a solidarity fast. Solidarity fasts are under way in New York and New Hampshire, and others will be occurring here in the coming days. Four young people are walking from Miami to Washington, DC to call for a stop to the separation of families and suspension of deportation of DREAMers in the Trail of DREAMs. Our compañer@s in Maricopa County and NDLON are organizing a demonstration on January 16 against Arpaio and the administration’s continued collaboration with him and his racist attacks on immigrants.

We are asking for solidarity fasts. This is the time. Let’s light a spark in this movement. Enough is enough!”

Jonathan Fried
WeCount!
Fast for Our Families
www.fastforfamilies.org
fastforfamilies@gmail.com

Jonathan Fried, grandson of Jewish immigrants, is originally from Swampscott, MA, and graduated from Friends World College (now Long Island University). He has lived in the former Yugoslavia and Guatemala and speaks Spanish fluently. For the last 35 years, 25 of them in South Florida, Jon has worked and participated in solidarity, community, immigrant and labor struggles with diverse organizations including the American Friends Service Committee, the AFL-CIO Organizing Institute, UNITE/SEIU, the Center for Labor Studies at Florida International University, Florida Foster Care Review Project, Human Services Coalition and We Care. He is currently the founding Executive Director of WeCount!, a grassroots membership organization, with centers in Homestead and Cutler Bay, Florida, that fights for immigrant, worker and youth rights.

The FAST FOUR OUR FAMILIES AND THE TRAIL OF DREAMS is initially being led and supported by members of the The Florida Immigrant Coalition, including: We Count!, South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice, Students Working for Equal Rights (10 SWER chapters statewide), Haitian-American Youth of Tomorrow (HAYOT), Centro de Orientacion del Inmigrante (CODI), Farmworker Association of Florida, Palm Beach Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (and its member groups), Haitian Women of Miami, Latinamerican Coalition of the Treasure Coast, Voices for Justice, Sueno Americano, Miami Workers Center and others.

Reflections on My Journey, by Juan Rodriguez of SWER

I was six years old, the first time I ever boarded a plane, not even able to say goodbye to three of my sisters in Colombia. I still remember that mix of nervousness and excitement as I felt myself lifted into the sky for the first time–never realizing that it would be one of the most symbolic flights of my existence. My father was taking me to “America,” a magical word for me at that age which I correlated with Mickey Mouse and enchanted castles. Little did I know that America would become my new home, refuge, and eventually, a fundamental part of my identity.

My plane landed in Miami International Airport in the summer of 1996. That was when my father told me that we would never return to Colombia. I bowed my head and accepted the destiny that had been chosen for me. What else was I supposed to think at that time? Your dad is your dad and I respected him, trusting that he would continue to guide me and look out for my best interests. He wanted a better life for his kids. He dreamed of the day that I could go off to college, become a professional, and pay for his retirement, just like practically any other father does. I took his words to heart that day and certainly didn’t know if I ever would get to go back to Colombia at all and see my sisters again.

It took at least six years for anyone in my family to finally be granted any official legal status in this country. I remember how we spent so many years with “pending cases,” which I started thinking of as “spending cases” due to the thousands and thousands of dollars that were lost every year on various lawyers and paperwork processes that seemed to have no end. Not everybody was lucky. After six years, though some of my family found the relief of being able to stay, the majority of them were denied and eventually forced to leave. Year by year I saw my family breaking down, from a cohesive whole that practically had Thanksgiving every other weekend, to scattered pieces divided by broken immigration laws that showed no justice or mercy to anyone regardless of their character or merit. I had infant cousins (American citizens) that I had to hug goodbye at the Miami airport because their parents were not granted any relief to stay. I, on the other hand, found myself in an irresolvable limbo due to the fact that I had been brought to the U.S. as a minor but became an adult without having secured any form of status.

I still wonder how it is that a person can just wake up one morning “UNDOCUMENTED”–-treated as if one came down with some sort of plague or genetic mutation that needed to be exterminated. I still haven’t been able to figure out at which point of my high school career I went from being the honors student and member of so many extra-curricular clubs and the school swim and track teams to being “an illegal.” Seeing it happen every day, even now, to people who arbitrarily do or don’t receive a letter in the mail with a little torch on it from the Department of Homeland Security…I continue to remain baffled. How is it possible that the country I grew to love so much could continuously create members of a lesser social class simply for lack of a plastic card or a nine digit number?

Why shouldn’t I have been allowed to work after high school? Everyone else I grew up with was given the opportunity, and why if I WANTED to willingly enter the workforce, did I have to be rejected? Why was I also denied from even getting a state-issued identification card, if the problem was me being undocumented?

It was a miracle, the day my stepmother petitioned for me to get my papers. Seeing how thousands of my friends had no citizen relatives, I understood the astounding privilege that I had in being helped this way. My stepmother saved me…and had it not been for this one loving deed, I would have been another of the 65,000 American high school graduates getting deported on an annual basis.

Yes, I do identify as an American. Going back to Colombia for the first time made it even more clear to me that I don’t remember my own country at all. I wouldn’t have any idea how to get around the cities I can barely pronounce properly, let alone figure out any way to survive or provide for myself. No, this IS my country, and I can tell you thousands of stories of the childhood experiences I had in practically every street and avenue of Hollywood, Florida; in Plantation; in Miami.

I choose to return because I needed to understand exactly what it was that I left behind, acknowledge my connection to that culture, and hopefully reconnect with siblings I have had no contact with in more than 14 years.

Before I got on the plane to go back, I got a call from my grandfather. He said, “Please hug my niece and nephew for me. Hug them very tight because I can’t any longer.” It wasn’t right for my grandfather to have his niece and nephew taken away. It wasn’t right for my cousins be taken away from the love of their grandfather. I find it inhumane how so many families are split apart.

I got to spend a couple of days with my cousins and my sisters. I kissed their little heads and told them that I love them with every fiber of my being. I got to tell my sisters in person that they are the most beautiful women in the world. I feel so lucky. I understood that I was the only one in my family that could go back to Colombia without being punished in some way by the U.S. immigration system. It was hard for me not to be afraid during my flight there, out of my lifelong panic that the U.S. might not let me come back.

Now I am back–continuing my work on the path to liberation for the millions of other immigrants who are still suffering in this country; striving to fulfill a dream; and struggling to make ends meet in difficult circumstances.

I landed in Miami International Airport again, and this time I came wearing my “UNDOCUMENTED: Students Working for Equal Rights” shirt, prepared to keep building a movement that has become a huge part of my life’s calling. We HAVE to pass the DREAM Act. We have to secure just and humane immigration reform for all students, workers and families. We must stay strong.

So Close to Our DREAM…and Still Fighting Deportations Case by Case

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-D-Pvy_BKVE&color1=0xe1600f&color2=0xfebd01&hl=en&feature=player_embedded&fs=1]

Today, as DREAMers take part in more than 125 actions across the country–including more than 15 in Florida–one DREAMer could be deported in the next day.

Please check our Citizen Orange’s post about Jorge Alonso, and TAKE ACTION ASAP!

FLIC and Miami-Dade Allies Address Urgent Need for Immigration Reform

74170262DM014_Immigrant_Gro

Yesterday FLIC members and pro-immigrant allies from across Miami-Dade county, with our partners at the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board (CRB) and City of Miami CRB, came together for a countywide immigration reform summit to “unite our diverse communities around agreed-upon priorities for legislative reform that will uphold our common commitment to equal treatment and due process for all immigrants,” in the words of CRB Chairman Harold Vieux. Issues discussed included enhancing safety and security, providing for legalization and a pathway to citizenship, protecting children, re-unifying families and protecting workers.

Speakers included Marleine Bastien, Executive Director of FAMN (and FLIC Board chair), Cheryl Little, Executive Director at Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, Jonathan Fried, Executive Director of We Count!, as well as Felipe Matos of SWER and FLIC’s own Maria Rodriguez. Advocates like Police Chief John Timoney, himself an immigrant, spoke out against 287(g) agreements that deputize local police to act as immigration enforcement agents, taking precious resources away from fighting dangerous crime. There was incredible support in the room for immigration reform, and much unity around our priorities.

The overarching message was that we need immigration reform now–for our families and our communities. We cannot wait. “Under the current administration, comprehensive immigration reform is something that our president, the White House and Congress can deliver,'” said Jean-Robert Lafortune, chairman of the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition. “Immigrants can’t live on hope alone.”

To make sure that this message is heard throughout the state, and in Washington, FLIC and our allies are planning a variety of public events throughout the fall. Please stay tuned for more information, and add your voice to the resounding majority in Florida calling for real change–NOW!

Obama Addresses Immigrant Health Care Agenda

barackobama

Last week, CBS’s Katie Couric interviewed President Barack Obama on issues addressing immigrant health care reform in the U.S. When asked whether undocumented immigrants should be covered under a new health plan, Obama disagreed, except for one exception.

“If you’ve got children who may be here illegally but are still in playgrounds or at schools, and potentially are passing on illnesses and communicable diseases that aren’t getting vaccinated, that I think is a situation where you may have to make an exception.”

It is irrational to make an exception for undocumented children and not for undocumented adults. It must be taken under consideration that children are not the only ones who may be passing on illnesses and diseases. Undocumented  adults interact with citizens all the time–in gas stations, restaurants, churches, hospitals, public transportation, taxis, schools, offices, marketplaces and gyms on a daily basis, for example. It has been shown that these adults, who lack of health insurance, are forced to use emergency health services, or nothing at all. This makes no sense economically.

Anti-immigrant activists oppose covering undocumented immigrants in any public health care bill because they claim that it might lure more  immigrants to the U.S. who will “take advantage” of health care benefits. President Obama is feeling the heat to fulfill the mandate of the voters who put him in office and wants to take action before his August deadline.

“We’re not going to cover undocumented workers,” said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee,  “That’s too politically explosive.”

What would be unfortunate–and has the potential to be truly explosive in the long run, for the U.S.–would be to provide health insurance for undocumented children, but not their parents. Clearly there are many American-born children with undocumented parents who suffer from a lack of health insurance coverage.

American citizens are not the only individuals living in the U.S., and  undocumented immigrants who live in the U.S., pay taxes and contribute to our economy. They deserve and depend on health care as much as American citizens–47 million of whom also lack coverage. In fact, health care should be considered a human right–not a “privilege.”

At the White House press conference, President Obama acknowledged that “We spend more on health care than any other nation. We must rebuild the economy stronger than before, and health care reform is central to that effort.”

He is completely right about this.

If we want to rebuild our economy, immigration reform is just as important.