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Strong objections voiced over illegal immigration

Speakers in Fort Myers talk about ordinances.

Published October 23, 2006


FORT MYERS - Jimmy Stafford Jr. is only a sixth-grade student.

But on Sunday, the 11-year-old from Cape Coral was the first at the microphone during a rally of grass roots groups vowing to root out undocumented immigrants with local ordinances.

"I think by the time I'm 50 the illegals will have taken over the U.S." said Stafford, who came to the event at Centennial Park with his grandmother. "I am asking, please, close the borders and keep the borders closed."

As immigration legislation has stalled in Congress, the battleground has shifted to city halls and state legislatures. The grass roots activist groups have increased from three dozen two years ago to more than 200 today.

The rally in Fort Myers was attended by several of the dozen groups that are now active in Florida. About 150 people came to the park. Some waved American flags. One car displayed a Confederate flag.

The speakers promoted ordinances that would prevent undocumented immigrants from renting or working in their cities; voting for politicians who favor enforcement over "amnesty"; and growing the groups' e-mail rosters.

"The good news is the number of grass roots groups has doubled in the last year," said David Caulkett, who lives in Pompano Beach and leads Floridians for Immigration Enforcement. "We need to push attrition by enforcement."

The groups suffered two defeats this summer when ordinances targeting undocumented immigrants in Avon Park in Highlands County and Palm Bay in Brevard County did not pass.

One of the speakers at the rally was Tom Macklin, the former mayor of Avon Park who is now running for lieutenant governor on the Reform Party ticket.

He fretted that the advocates for undocumented immigrants who defeated his ordinance were now planning to erect a fountain in the city to commemorate their victory.

He encouraged those at the rally in Fort Myers to attend the event in Avon Park on Saturday to protest. (The event Macklin was referring to has been postponed, according to Patricia Austin, an Avon park resident who helped lead the fight against the ordinance.)

"It's up to us to fight the battle on our home front,' Macklin said.

Caulkett told the crowd that battles at the state level also loom.

"The next big push is going to be college tuition for illegal aliens," he said. "We stopped it two years ago and we are going to stop it again."

Cape Coral resident Jim Dunne to Sunday's event with his wife, Gerry.

"I'm here because I don't think we should have open borders," said Dunne, 68. "We're going to have open borders and we're going to frisk (American citizens) who get in a plane? I think we have our priorities mixed up."

[Last modified October 23, 2006, 05:28:48]

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