SARASOTA -- Community leaders, immigration advocates and immigrants gathered for a rally in downtown Sarasota on Friday afternoon in hopes of getting the attention of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who was expected to attend a cocktail party overhead.
A group of about 65 gathered in the park across the street from the Marina Tower at 1233 N. Gulfstream Ave. in a demonstration to show support of the current bipartisan effort by U.S. Senate's "Gang of 8" that includes Rubio.
"Marco escucha, estamos en la lucha," demonstrators chanted in Spanish which means, "Marco listen, we are in the struggle."
The rally lasted for a couple of hours, getting the attention of some in attendance at the $5,000-a-plate fundraiser being held in the veranda of the penthouse above.
The rally was organized by Unidos Now, a nonprofit organization that is part of the statewide "Say Yes" campaign advocating the passage of the immigration reform during this legislative cycle.
"What do we want?" Unidos members shouted. "Immigration reform!" demonstrators shouted.
"When do we want it?" leaders shouted. "Now!" demonstrators shouted.
Before the chanting, the group gathered to hear community leaders and some local residents speak on the importance of immigration reform. Some shared their
Blanca Trejo Ramirez, an undocumented farmer worker living in Palmetto, broke down in tears as she tried to address the group with a prepared speech. Another woman jumped to the front and grabbed Ramirez's speech and began to read.
"I've been working in the fields to feed the American people and my family," the woman read.
Ramirez, of Mexico, stood by with her four children of ages 3, 7, 10 and 11.
"I have no doubt that my children will one day be great leaders and contribute to this great nation," the woman read.
Ramirez, whose children are all citizens, came to the United States 12 years ago with her husband. She thinks one may even grow up to be president.
She is not the only one with a dream.
María Quezada, of Mexico, had a dream.
"My dream, like many of you have dreams, is to go to college," Quezada told those gathered. "Mainly I want to go into the medical field and become a neurosurgeon."
Yet, despite being a straight-A student throughout her schooling, Quezada, 18, could not attend a university because, like her parents, she is undocumented.
Today, thanks to the deferred action for childhood arrivals programs President Obama signed into law, she will be able to begin the pursuit of her dream. The program will give her temporary status for two years during which she can get a Social Security number, work permit, driver's licence and allow her to pay resident tuition at universities.
Local religious leaders were present in support.
"Our national legislators must wake up and pass the Dream Act," Rabbi Jonathan Katz of Temple Beth Israel of Sarasota said. "Let us continue to fight for justice and opportunity on behalf of those so deserving."
Unidos Now Executive Director Frankie Soriano spoke of those people.
"We want the 11 million to have a chance," Soriano said. "This isn't political football. They are messing with 11 million people"
The crowd gathered alternated from chanting to singing.
"Somos el pueblo de Dios," they sang in Spanish. "We are God's village."
Jessica De Leon, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. Follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.