Make us your home page

Immigrant supporters decry Florida Senate bill

“Before you today is a matter of rightness and wrongness,” said the Rev. Charles McKenzie of the Tampa Rainbow PUSH coalition. Dozens stood behind him, many prayerfully clasping their hands as McKenzie addressed a Senate committee.

Bill Cotterell | Tallahassee Democrat

“Before you today is a matter of rightness and wrongness,” said the Rev. Charles McKenzie of the Tampa Rainbow PUSH coalition. Dozens stood behind him, many prayerfully clasping their hands as McKenzie addressed a Senate committee.

TALLAHASSEE — A praying mass of immigrants and their supporters brought a Florida Senate budget committee to a halt Wednesday to oppose a contentious bill they liken to an Arizona-style illegal immigration crackdown.

Sen. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, announced at the beginning of the meeting that the bill would not be heard. More than 100 people who had come to protest the measure stood up and asked to be heard.

Alexander allowed some comments. The group sent up two girls who had trouble reaching 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, referring to the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. "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, an organization founded by the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

"The children have spoken. The question is: Is this assembly listening?" McKenzie 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."

Polls have shown cracking down on illegal immigration is popular — except among Hispanics, a key voting bloc in Florida.

Of the crop of immigration bills in the Legislature, the Senate measure focuses on employers verifying the immigration status of prospective employees. The proposal, sponsored by Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, has relaxed an earlier plan to get local police officers to try to enforce federal immigration law.

The bill won't get another hearing until after Easter. A more stringent bill, put forth by Rep. William Snyder, R-Stuart, will be heard Thursday by a panel in the House.

By the time McKenzie finished testifying before the Senate committee Wednesday, dozens of people had assembled near him.

A final speaker led the group in a tearful prayer.

"I'll just pray for you guys," Cecilia Perez told senators, with news media cameras flashing.

Patricia Mazzei can be reached at

Immigrant supporters decry Florida Senate bill 04/13/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 13, 2011 9:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Airbag maker Takata bankruptcy filing expected in Japan, U.S.


    DETROIT — Drowning in a sea of lawsuits and recall costs, Japanese airbag maker Takata Corp. is expected to seek bankruptcy protection in Tokyo and the United States today.

  2. Federal agencies demand records from SeaWorld theme park


    ORLANDO — Two federal agencies are reportedly demanding financial records from SeaWorld.

    Killer whales Ikaika and Corky participate in behaviors commonly done in the wild during SeaWorld's Killer Whale educational presentation in this photo from Jan. 9. SeaWorld has been subpoenaed by two federal agencies for comments that executives and the company made in August 2014 about the impact from the "Blackfish" documentary. 
[Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS]
  3. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  4. Line of moms welcome Once Upon A Child to Carrollwood


    CARROLLWOOD — Strollers of all shapes and sizes are lined up in front of the store, and inside, there are racks of children's clothing in every color of the rainbow.

    At Once Upon A Child, you often as many baby strollers outside as you find baby furniture and accessories. It recently opened this location in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser
  5. Pastries N Chaat brings North India cuisine to North Tampa


    TAMPA — Pastries N Chaat, a new restaurant offering Indian street food, opened this week near the University of South Florida.

    The menu at Pastries N Chaat includes a large variety of Biriyani, an entree owners say is beloved by millions. Photo courtesy of Pastries N Chaat.