Immigration activists rally at Manatee courthouse

jdeleon@bradenton.comMay 16, 2013 

BRADENTON -- Demonstrators gathered on the Manatee County Courthouse lawn Thursday afternoon to urge Rep. Vern Buchanan to support an immigration reform bill.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Now organized the demonstration in hopes of getting Buchanan's attention after he placed a poll question on his website asking voters if they support or oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants.

"This is disappointing," CIR NOW organizer Edwin Enciso said. "We are here to say we won't be disrespected."

Dozens gathered, chanting in hopes of convincing Buchanan and others to vote for reform.

"Vern, just say yes," demonstrators shouted.

Buchanan's Bradenton office is located inside the county judicial center.

"Now we are stepping it up," Enciso said. "One way or another, whether it passes in 2013 or in 2015, it will pass."

Pastor Jose Rene Cadena of Centro Vida Nueva in east Bradenton moderated the event.

"This is a bill for everyone," Cadena said. "If you do not support this and do not support this today, you support the status quo."

María Quezada who struggled to attend college because of her illegal status, was in attendance and shared the story of another young "dreamer" by the name of Lucas, a Brazilian native who came to the United States at the age of 2.

"He grew up thinking that he was American," Quezada said.

Lucas soon realized there were many things, such as getting his driver's license, that he could not do because of his illegal status.

Then, Lucas' father was arrested for a minor traffic violation and subsequently deported.

Choked up, Quezada spoke of how Lucas's father died alone during heart surgery later in Brazil.

"He said that's not human, to let someone die alone," Quezada said. "It's not human to have this family separated."

The United Auto Workers also came out by the dozens to show support for the movement.

Palmetto Police Chief Rick Wells was notably absent although he hoped to attend.

"He's been a visionary in this community. We like to appreciate his support," Cadena said.

Cadena also thanked Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant for supporting the cause.

"We are a nation of immigrants. There is nothing that is going to stop that," Cadena said. "We will not stop until we are all counted and considered worthy of these United States."

Jessica De Leon, Herald Reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.

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