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Immigration activists say they should count in Rick Scott’s Florida

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In his State of the State address on Tuesday, Rick Scott hailed Florida’s diversity, featuring sentences in his speech that mentioned that “we are home to over 250 languages,” and “we are clearly the best melting pot in the world.”

But in Ybor City’s Centennial Park in Tampa on Wednesday, a group of immigration activists said that the governor’s pride in the state’s multiculturalism clearly doesn’t extend to those fighting for comprehensive immigration reform.

“What he failed to say is that he is using time, effort, resources and energy to not only remove the protections that would protect families, but that he’s failing to do so by giving us another alternative,” said Daniel Barajas with the group Young American Dreamers. Barajas said that Scott neglected to mention the fact that 72 percent of registered voters in the state support some sort of immigration reform, nor did he show compassion for immigrants when he congratulated Attorney General Pam Bondi for her “outstanding efforts.”

Bondi announced in December that she had joined a federal lawsuit (which now has expanded to 26 states) to block President Obama’s executive actions that would shield as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. A federal judge in Texas last month temporarily blocked that action. The judge did not rule on the legality of immigration orders, but said there was sufficient merit to the challenge to warrant a suspension while the case goes forward.

Perla Hinojosa with the group Mi Familia Vota said that Floridians come from “different countries, different backgrounds,” and that Scott and Bondi need to realize that Latinos are growing in terms of their electoral clout in the Sunshine State. “These people will remember when you didn’t support their families, didn’t support their parents,” and vowed that they will remember when elections roll back around in 2016. “He needs to remember that Florida is not only comprised of citizens, but of other people who came from other countries. So we’re here to highlight his speech. He needs to represent our immigrant families as well.”

And though Latinos are growing as a part of the electorate in Florida, last November’s election was still dominated by older whites, who may be getting grayer and even dying off, but is still a demographic that reliably comes to the polls.

But the advocates obviously aren’t going away. In addition to the two groups mentioned above, there were representatives from the ACLU of Florida, LULAC, Faith in Florida, United We Dream Tampa Bay, SEIU State Council and SEIU 1199  at the news conference.

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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