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Protesters want immigrants to be able to work here legally

At least 75 people celebrated Colombia's independence day Friday by demonstrating for the right of undocumented immigrants from that country to work in the United States.

"Bush _ We need TPS," read signs at the intersection of Dale Mabry Highway and Columbus Drive.

Temporary protective status, or TPS, would allow Colombians who have fled their homeland's violence to work here legally.

Luis Hernandez, an engineer, said there are thousands of Colombian immigrants in Tampa who are working illegally, mostly in low-paying jobs such as cleaning services or carwashes.

Many of them, he said, abandoned professional careers in Colombia to escape the fighting among guerrilla groups, paramilitary forces and government troops.

Waving banners and shouting through a bullhorn, demonstrators regarded every honking horn as an expression of support.

But they lamented that more people had not turned out to demonstrate.

"It's a shame there aren't more Colombians here to help," said demonstrator Cristina Diaz, 54, a Realtor.

Diaz and Hernandez said they hoped the demonstration, organized by the Colombian-American Service Association, would help persuade Florida's congressional delegation to vote in favor of protective status for Colombian immigrants.

Similar demonstrations also took place Friday in Chicago, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., they said.

Colombia achieved independence from Spain on July 20, 1810.