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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Immigration bill opponents briefly shut down Senate budget committee



A praying horde of immigrants and their supporters temporarily shut down the Senate budget committee Wednesday to oppose a contentious bill they liken to an Arizona-style immigration crackdown.

Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, announced at the beginning of the committee meeting that the bill would not be heard until Thursday. More than a hundred people who had come to protest the measure stood up and asked to be heard.

Alexander allowed some comments. The group sent up two little girls who had to lower the podium to reach the microphone.

"I am here for all the kids that didn't come because they were taking the FCAT," said 10-year-old Karla Amaya of Clearwater. "We don't want our parents to be deported because they're the ones...that protect us."

"They work so hard so they can buy us clothes and shelter and other stuff," said Nayeli Chagoya, 9, also of Clearwater.

They were followed by the Rev. Charles McKenzie of the NAACP and Tampa's Rainbow-PUSH Coalition.

"The children have spoken. The question is, is this assembly listening," he said. "Before you today is a matter of rightness and wrongness and I hope that you would follow where the moral compass is leading and not just the discontented and angry voices of a few."

The final speaker led the group -- by then a mass of dozens of people assembled alongside the podium -- in a tearful prayer, with reporter cameras flashing.

[Last modified: Wednesday, April 13, 2011 3:28pm]


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