Immigration activists descend upon Tallahassee


Hundreds of immigration activists held a rally on the fourth floor of the state Capitol in Tallahassee on Wednesday, blasting state lawmakers for producing a raft of bills this Session that the protesters consider hostile to the immigration community.

Those activists received good news this past week, though, when Miami Republican Miguel Diaz de la Portillan, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the bills were all but D.O.A. in his committee. They would prevent counties from passing so-called “sanctuary” policies and force them to help federal immigration officials round up illegal immigrants or face massive fines.

“None of the immigration bills are going to be heard,” he said. “So those are off the table as far as the judiciary committee is concerned.”

The activists weren’t taking a victory lap just yet, though.

“This press conference is not to say the end, but the beginning of what we’re doing today,” said Jose Morales, of the Florida Immigration Coalition.

He said the groups were going to conduct three separate actions Wednesday:

  1. Go to Senate President Andy Gardiner‘s office to deliver more than 2,000 petitions against “anti-immigrant bills” in the Legislature;
  2. Take the same number of signatures to Senator de la Portilla’s office to thank him for his “courageous leadership, and;
  3. Deliver petitions to Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office, calling on her to drop her lawsuit against President Barack Obama‘s executive order from November 2014 that expands the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy and creates a related plan, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents. That case was moved to the U.S. Supreme Court last month, but with last weekend’s death of Justice Antonin Scalia the case is likely to be deadlocked 4-4.

Morales recounted how in 2011,  immigration advocates gathered in large numbers in the Capitol to push back against immigration measures targeting the undocumented, most of which never passed into law. Five years later, they’re back again.

The biggest measure that activists were pushing back on concern so-called “sanctuary counties.” One bill would punish local governments and law enforcement agents who don’t sanction undocumented immigrants. Those sanctions include penalties that could range $1,000 to $5,000 on a daily basis.

Another bill would have made it a first-degree felony – punishable by up to 30 years in prison – to re-enter the state after being deported.

Leading off the rally was a very hoarse Dwight Bullard, the Senate Democrat from Cutler Bay. He ended his brief remarks with the chant, “Si, se puede.” (“Yes, we can”).

“Our Florida is not a Florida where we deport mothers and fathers without reason,” shouted out Monica Russo, president of SEIU Florida. “Remember in November,” she exhorted the crowd, referring to this fall’s general election. “Get yourself registered. We’re going to turn this thing around and elect new members who represent everybody, not just those privileged.”

That remains to be seen. However, it looks for now that divisive legislation that enraged elements of the Latino community won’t be a factor in the 2016 statewide elections.

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at [email protected].


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704