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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

House immigration debate draws undocumented students



Seventeen-year-old Kevin Lopez Gutierrez walked to the podium of a Florida House committee Thursday and told the packed room that he is undocumented.

"I had a dream of sitting in your position," he told members of the economic affairs committee. "I still have that dream. I can't do that because I'm illegal."

He spoke softly in opposition to a proposal by Rep. William Snyder, R-Stuart, that would crack down on illegal immigration. Several others like Kevin, including a third-year law student at Florida State University, also testified against the bill.

Kevin, high school sophomore from Indiantown, said his parents brought him to the United States from Mexico as a child.

"I've been here since I was 5 years old. Always scared...always scared of being caught by immigration," he said. "I don't want to go back to Mexico."

The crowd for the hearing was so large, House staffers had to set up an overflow room. The meeting has also featured a parade of South Florida lawmakers from the House and Senate -- including Rep. Luis Garcia, D-Miami Beach, wearing his passport -- who have stopped by to check on the progress of the debate.

[Last modified: Thursday, April 14, 2011 10:25am]


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