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Immigration activists protest in Tampa on anniversary of Obama executive action

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

On the first anniversary of President Obama‘s executive actions that would have shielded more than 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation — a move that has been put on hold in the courts — immigration activists groups held demonstrations in Tampa and around the country on Friday to make the occasion.

It comes as GOP presidential candidates from Donald Trump on down have had lots of harsh things to say about the issue, with the idea of comprehensive immigration reform seeming like an idea whose time may never come.

“The thing that everybody has to remember is that these young children, these American citizens, one day they’re going to be 18. One day they’re going to be ready to vote, and they’re going to remember who was there to help them, who protected their families, and who didn’t,” said Daniel Barajas, executive director with Young American Dreamers, at Joe Chillura Park in downtown Tampa.

“This is an attack on families,” he says about the fact that a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Pam Bondi in Florida and in 25 other states has put a hold on Obama’s executive actions regarding immigration. “Everybody said it was done the incorrect way, that’s why they blocked it. However, they haven’t put on any alternative, and these Republican candidates are talking about if they’re elected they’re going to remove all of these protections.”

A year ago, the president announced the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA. That program would protect from deportation undocumented parents who have children who are citizens or legal residents and offer them a chance to apply for a work permit. The president also announced that he would expand Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a program he first announced in 2012 designed for undocumented youth who have spent most of their lives in the U.S.

However, both DAPA and expanded DACA were blocked in the courts. Last week, after a federal appeals court maintained a hold on the president’s executive actions, the Obama administration said it plans to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Dozens gathered in downtown Tampa for their event on Friday. Members from Mi Familia Vota, Young Americans Dreamers, LULAC, SEIU Florida and the Florida Immigrant Coalition were all present.

On Friday morning, immigration activists held a news conference in front of Bondi’s Tampa office in a rally sponsored by a coalition of groups, such as the Florida Immigrant Coalition, Mi Familia Vota, Young American Dreamers, LULAC 7250 and SEIU Florida.

“It’s sad because we see that these politicians go very low in using our communities as their political scapegoats,” said Pamela Gomez with the Florida Immigrant Coalition. “We’re fighting for families, we’re not criminals, and a lot of what the media says and what the politicians say is not true, so we’re very saddened by it and we’re very pushed to fight for proactive measures that speak to American core values, which is what we’re not seeing.”

Mi Familia Vota was also holding similar rallies, citizenship workshops and voter registrations in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada and Texas.

When asked about his plan to deport the estimated 11 million undocumented people in the U.S., Donald Trump said last week that he emulate his plan on Dwight Eisenhower‘s Operation Wetback from the 1950s, a mass deportation program that was known for violating human rights.

“My father was one of the 1.2 million American citizens of Mexican descent who was deported back in the 1950s,” said Barajas. “He was born here. My uncles were born here. However it’s that level of racism that it just wants to put everybody into one group. This isn’t just an attack on the policy, this is an attack on our families, on our neighbors, on our community. We’re supposed to be the beacon of the cultural melting pot of the world, but we’re putting politics in front of families. We’re knocking out our foundations. Everybody is trying to be tougher.”

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the 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. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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