PALMETTO -- Demonstrators advocating for immigration reform waved to drivers approaching the Green Bridge Saturday morning with signs asking the community to keep families together.
On the eve of Father's Day, the small crowd, mostly women dressed as men, stood to increase awareness that the lack of immigration reform plagues the community, often times separating parent from child.
The demonstration was a joint effort by members of Comprehensive Immigration Reform Now, a grassroots campaign, and UnidosNow, a nonprofit organization. Both groups advocated the passage of immigration reform during the recent legislative cycle.
"There are a lot of mothers and children that won't be with their father's tomorrow," Emilia Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez, of Bradenton, came to the United States from Mexico nearly 25 years ago and is a citizen. Yet she sees how families in her community suffer when a parent is deported, depriving children of their fathers or mothers.
"There are families that are going to miss having their fathers here," Rodriguez said. "I have seen how these kids suffer."
The mother of three sees how often times the remaining parent is forced to work two low-paying jobs to support the family, leaving children unattended, which too often leads them to the streets.
Many local children, she said, will be participating in a Father's Day show at the Sacred Heart in Bradenton despite not having their fathers present, to pay homage and help fill the void they feel.
"We are bringing awareness to the community," Adriana Cerrillo said. "What we are facing is a lack of communication."
Cerrillo said it was not about politics anymore.
UnidosNow had met with U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan she said, who promised to address the bill once it was presented.
"Where are they now? Where is Vern Buchanan?" Cerrillo said. "He has yet to take a stand."
Buchanan is on record against amnesty for undocumented aliens, support of a bill to make English the official language of the U.S., and spoken in support of funding better border security between the U.S. and Mexico, according to his official website.
One father was present for the demonstration. German Tobar hopes that increasing awareness will help in making changes so that undocumented families can have the basic rights other families have.
"I would be able to give them a better education and resources," Tobar said.
Tobar, who moved from Mexico seven years, ago wants to be able to provide a better life for his three children, who are citizens.
"For me it would be about finding them better opportunities," Tobar said. "If we were separated, who would feed them."
Frustrations were just as high as spirits however.
"We are going to fight for our children, we are going to fight for our families," Cerrillo said. "We are tired of being minimized and we are tired of being treated as second-class citizens."
Jessica De Leon, law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.