BRADENTON -- Nothing dampened the spirits of 50 immigration reform backers who held signs along Manatee Avenue West in front of the Historic Manatee County Courthouse Monday through steady rain.
The rally, pulled together by Manatee County's Organizing for Action, got positive beeps from many passing motorists.
They received many more toots of support than a similar rally for gun control did recently.
Led by Martha Bryan, Organizing for Action applauds the Senate for passing an immigration reform bill last week.
"The Senate bill is a compromise we can live with for now," Bryan said of the proposal to require most undocumented immigrants to follow a 13-year path to citizenship and create a work program for immigrants on American farms.
But will the bill get traction in the House of Representatives?
Organizing for Action rallied near the office of Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, because it wants him to vote "yes" on comprehensive immigration reform, Bryan said.
Buchanan has a July 16 meeting set with the Manatee and Sarasota immigration reform group Unidos Now where he promises to reveal his position on immigration reform, said Maria Quezada of Unidas Now.
"Vern told us in March or April: 'The moment there is a bill, we can talk, but not before,' " Quezada said. "So, when the Senate passed the bill last week we called Vern's office and said, 'When and where?' They told us July 16 in his office."
Bradenton's Conor O'Reilly and her sister, Adina Bridges, rallied in the rain Monday.
"I really think it's un-American to deport people who come to chase the American Dream," O'Reilly said.
"I don't think immigration hurts the economy. I think it helps the economy," Bridges said.
The Rev. Jesse Perez of Rio De Vida Church on 26th Street West meets immigration where the rubber hits the road. The pastor said at the rally many of his 100 or so congregation members are undocumented.
The truth is they are here, working and supporting the local economy, he said.
The problem comes when one is stopped by authorities and cannot show a valid driver's license, Perez said.
Everything collapses, Perez said.
The offender often languishes in jail or is picked up by federal immigration officials and deported.
The job is lost. The family is demoralized, Perez added.
"A whole family will move in with another family just to survive," Perez said. "It's all because of a driver's license.
"Criminals need to be deported," Perez added. "But those who are just here to raise a family should be allowed to stay."
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, Ext. 6686.