Lakeland's Jesus Guevara — who is in danger of being deported — and Plant City's Amalia Carranza — whose husband has already been — were also able to discuss their cases with a representative of Sen. Rubio's office.
Approximately two dozen people who are part of the Florida Caravan for Immigration Reform held a news conference to talk about immigration reform, which seems to be one issue that a dysfunctional Congress might be capable of accomplishing this year — predominantly because Congressional Republicans led by Rubio have made it a priority following last year's disappointing election when they were walloped by the Latino vote.
Rubio is by far the highest profile member of a bipartisan Senate group working on an immigration bill. The activists handed off a petition — signed by more than 2,300 people — that thanked him for his work on the issue. But they warned that "we are deeply concerned that the plan you describe in your interviews would lead to undue delays and place arbitrary obstacles in the path of 11 million people becoming citizens of the nation they call home."
Carranza told the group that gathered outside Rubio's Tampa office off of Spectrum Boulevard near the USF campus that she was "just one example of the many families across this country that suffer from the separation of families."
Immigration and Customs Enforcement's deportation proceedings to remove Guevara from the country have been underway since 2007.
"I'm here to ask Sen. Rubio to help keep my family together and all families together," said the father of four children.
Guevara is scheduled to be deported on May 7 unless something happens to keep him with his kids.
"I am not a bad person, I am not a threat to this country. I pay my taxes. I own a home in Lakeland. All I do is try to contribute to my community and create a better life for my children," he said through an interpreter.
Felipe Matos is the national Field Director of the GLBT group Get Equal, a gay rights group that is now focusing on comprehensive immigration reform.
"We have to fight so that all families can stay together," he said, referring to federal legislation pending in Congress called Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which he hopes will include immigration reform (currently no Republicans support the bill).
Twenty-two-year-old Veronica Perez is an undocumented immigrant who studies engineering at Hillsborough Community College. She applied last fall for Deferred Action, the plan offered by President Obama that allows young illegal and undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. under the age of 16 to get legal status. She's still waiting to see if she's approved, which would allow her to escape fear of being deported for two years.
"I do feel that Hispanics and all immigrants are helping the nation. We're not just taking over jobs, we're actually creating jobs and helping the community. I just want to be able to go to school and help out my community, graduate ..." she said.
Donna Paulhamus from the Unitarian Universalist Church in Clearwater said her church calls the battle for comprehensive immigration reform "The civil rights issue of our time."
"We don't just want comprehensive immigration reform, we want compassionate comprehensive immigration reform," she said.
The caravan began last Friday and will end this Sunday in Miami.