Tallahassee insiders have long joked that there’s a dumpster outside of the nation’s Capitol reserved for memorials passed the state Legislature.
But that didn’t stop Florida state Sen. René García, a Hialeah Republican who was born in Cuba, from making an impassioned plea to Congress to do something to address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. The Obama-era policy protects from deportation individuals who were brought, as children, to the U.S. illegally by their parents.
President Donald Trump announced in December he was terminating the policy, which could put 800,000 DACA recipients in danger of deportation.
Sen. Daphne Campbell, a Haitian-born Miami Democrat, is sponsoring a memorial (SB 882), which sends a message to Congress to do something to protect the hundreds of thousands of children who entered the country when they were kids.
Tuesday’s debate about the memorial came amid discussions in Washington about immigration reform, and raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents throughout the country, including in Florida.
“Why send them back to a country that they have never known? Would we be having this discussion if the kids came from Norway or a similar country where the inhabitants are mostly white?” Campbell, said, referring to Trump’s reported characterization of her homeland and African countries as “shitholes.” Trump allegedly said the U.S. should welcome more immigrants from nations like Norway.
Garcia, who is running for Congress, weighed in after the committee heard from supporters of the memorial, including a handful of foreign-born students advocating on behalf of their DACA-eligible friends.
Patrick Ariel Sabillon said he moved to Texas to be with his father after “multiple dead bodies were found in my elementary school” in Nicaragua.
“I can’t explain to you guys the anxiety, the sadness, the fear and the anger that the immigration crackdown has brought to our communities,” Sabillon, a 20-year-old Florida State University student, said. “People are worried about going to the market.”
Sen. Doug Broxson, R-Gulf Breeze, said he thought it was “inappropriate” to consider the memorial while Congress is debating the issue.
But García said that’s exactly why the Legislature needed to send Congress a strong message of support for Dreamers, who, he said, are exactly the kind of immigrants the nation wants.
“You went to school. You did your part. You did your job. You stayed out of trouble . and yet now, because of politics, you (face the) potential of being deported,” he said before the committee’s 3-2 vote in favor of the proposal. Broxson and Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, voted against the measure.
“The Dreamers are those that understand what it is to be an American. The Dreamers are the ones that are dreaming to have a better life … not only for their families, but for their communities. That’s why it is so critical that we send this message back. That’s why it’s so important that we say stop. Stop with the Democrats, with the Republicans.”
Congress to has to act, García said.
“Can President Trump sign an executive order? Absolutely… But it has to be Congress that has the intestinal fortitude, Democrats and Republicans … and put aside the next election cycle and fix it once and for all.”
It’s unlikely the House will approve a similar measure. The chamber on Friday passed a controversial plan that would ban “sanctuary” cities in the state.