tampabay.com

Second wave of pro-immigrant rallies planned

A protest set for Saturday in Dade City is one of at least seven scheduled in Florida.

By JOSE CARDENAS
Published April 7, 2006


On the heels of surprisingly large demonstrations around the country, immigrant rights groups are planning a second round of rallies and marches in more than 100 cities, including at least seven in Florida.

Most of the Florida demonstrations are scheduled for Monday, though one is planned for Saturday in Dade City, where supporters of Farmworker Self Help will march down Seventh Street at 3 p.m.

"The message is that we would like an opportunity for these folks," said Margarita Romo, director of Farmworker Self Help. "Maybe (illegal immigrants) did not come in the proper way, but they came to work, and they paid their dues in those fields."

The rallies will go on despite a looming compromise in the Senate that would allow many immigrants to become citizens.

"It's not done till it's done," said Maria Rodriguez, director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition in Miami, which is organizing a Miami march. She said the House and Senate still have to reconcile two radically different bills.

"Nothing has changed," said Jaime Contreras, chairman of the National Capital Immigration Coalition, the umbrella group in Washington, D.C., spearheading the events, dubbed the "National Day of Action for Immigrant Justice." "We are still opposing the House version. ... (And) the one that came out of the Senate ... separates undocumented families."

The hundreds of thousands of people who took to the streets in cities like Los Angeles and Chicago recently protested a bill that passed the House in December that would make it a felony to be in the country illegally.

Contreras said he expected 200,000 people to rally Monday in Washington, D.C., and "a couple" million nationally.

Events also will be held in Homestead, Pensacola, Lake Worth, Fort Lauderdale, Quincy, Fort Myers and Ocala.

On Sunday, people will march in Orlando and in Miami.

The national events will take place from New York to Los Angeles. There's one even in the upscale town of Telluride, Colo., where the 100 immigrants who live there have vowed not show up to work at the restaurants and ski resorts.

"We want to be recognized as an important part of the growth of the economy in this country," said Oscar Meza, the 44-year-old landscaper who is leading the effort in Telluride.

The massive rallies around the country have surprised many, given that illegal immigrants are more known for staying out of sight. The rallies have involved a cross-section of unions, churches, community groups and immigrants themselves.