Thanks to nonstop protests, vigils, petitions, phone calls, songs and picketing, Florida’s immigration advocates won a victory when two anti-immigration bills collapsed in the state legislature. The campaign by the We Are Florida coalition pressured even the bill’s Senate sponsor to vote against it.
From the start, AFSC’s Herman Martinez and Paul-Andre Mondesir actively worked in the coalition’s effort against the bills, which aimed to force local police to act as immigration agents which leads to distrust and increased tension between residents and local law enforcement.
The bills were modeled after the Arizona legislation passed last year, which AFSC deplored, saying “now in Arizona, it’s a crime to be brown.”. AFSC continues to work nationally for fair, comprehensive and humane immigration reform, not the de facto enforcement-only policies that have separated thousands of families and deprived millions of a path to citizenship. In Miami, amid the waning hours of the legislative session, Herman, Paul Andre and several coalition partners from the Florida Farmworkers Association and other groups held a 48-hour vigil outside the office of state Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera. The group withstood heat, pouring rain, and angry commuters as they stood up for real solutions, not more immigrant bashing in Florida.
“It was an atmosphere of brotherhood and solidarity. We were among fellow activists, children friends, students including young people fighting for the DREAM Act, sharing prayers, songs, fears, foods, beverages, histories and tears,” says Paul Andre.
The session expired without taking action on the bills, essentially defeating them. Coalition members gathered again in the same spot, both to thank Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera for standing up against the bills and to celebrate the result of organizing and widespread community support from business leaders, religious leaders, advocates and families across Florida.