BRADENTON -- Supporters of comprehensive immigration reform led a candlelight march and rallied outside the Manatee County Courthouse Thursday afternoon in an ongoing effort to get Congressman Vern Buchanan to support a bill.
The supporters marched from the Riverwalk in Bradenton to the Manatee Courthouse, where they rallied and gained the attention of drivers during rush hour traffic.
The peaceful demonstration was a joint effort by UnidosNow, a nonprofit organization, CIRNOW, a grassroots campaign, and Organizing for America.
"We are hoping to get Vern Buchanan to act on immigration," Organizing for American Chapter Leader Martha Bryan.
Bryan said that the groups have had five meetings with Buchanan or his staff, held seven rallies and attended three of his town hall. With about 44,000 people deported this year, Brfyan said they are asking Buchanan and other Congressman to leep families together.
Frustrations continue however.
"He keeps calling them illegal immigrants, and we have asked him repeatedly to stop using that terminology, they are undocumented immigrants," Bryan said.
Buchanan is on record against amnesty for illegal aliens, supports a bill to make
English the official language of the United States, and has spoken in support of funding better border security between the U.S. and Mexico, according to his official website.
On Thursday morning, members of the group met with Buchanan's staff at his Sarasota office. Maria Quezada, known as a "dreamer" because she struggled to attend college because of her illegal status, said she felt that Buchanan's staff was receptive throughout the meeting. At the conclusion of the meeting, however, they walked away without indication that Buchanan is willing to compromise.
Issues discussed at the meeting included family unity, deportation, dreamers and the Safe Act, a bill that proposes allowing state and local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws.
"It was really refreshing though to get it all out and to be heard," Quezada said.
Dylan Shepherd, with Organizing for America, also marched and rallied in front of the courthouse.
"Immigration is a matter that affects each and every American," Shepherd said. "At Organizing for America we want a pathway to citizenship, a legal pathway for the 11 million undocumented workers so they can support their families."
Shepherd, of Mulberry in Polk County, said he has seen families torn apart because of immigration issues.
"It is not only moral, it's social, it's economic," Shepherd said. "It covers a wide range of issues."
Jessica De Leon, law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.