Kathy Castor calls for comprehensive immigration reform

Palacios concerns aren't exaggerated.

Erika Andiola, a nationally prominent supporter of the DREAM Act, recently had her home raided:

On Thursday night, Andiola's home in Arizona was raided by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, who knocked on her door then arrested her mother, Maria Arreola, after she opened to check on her visitors. When her older brother refused to provide documentation of his own legal status, he was brought in as well.

"DCA (deferred action status) is a band-aid put up in this country to cover up the broken immigration system," Palacios continued. "We need a real immigration reform ... in two years, I'm left with fear of deporting [sic]."

Palacios is referring to the fact that her legal status will expire in two years time.

Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that ICE deported 410,000 foreigners in 2012 — the highest number of removals during Obama's term.

Lourdes Villanueva, the president of Florida Immigrant Coalition, said such families aren't asking for anything from the government other than the right to feel safe in America.

There are approximately 11 million undocumented people in the U.S. A so-called path to citizenship would pave the way for them to become permanent U.S. residents, after they pay back taxes and fines, and go through other legal procedures (depending on how such legislation would be crafted).

"When a promise is made in a campaign, if a community rises up and demands action, they are more often successful. And that's what I sense," said Castor when asked if she thinks President Obama will follow through with his campaign trail comments to take up comprehensive immigration reform.

Castor said she's hopeful that Republicans received the message from the 2012 elections that concerns from the Latino community must be addressed, and she's encouraged to learn how South Florida Congress members Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen are talking it up.

"I've reached out to Congressman Diaz-Balart to see what we can work on together," she said.

  • Lourdes Villanueva, Nanci Palacios, Bishop Charles Leigh and Congresswoman Kathy Castor

Although Washington D.C. has been filled with news about guns and fiscal cliffs, comprehensive immigration reform is something that we're told could happen this year — because both President Obama and Congressional Republicans want it to.

But that's easier said than done. Friday morning in Ybor City's Centennial Park, Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor, surrounded by a number of immigration activists, called on citizens to make their voices heard.

"A path to citizenship not only benefits immigrant families, many who live in the shadows ... but if we're able to pass immigration reform, it will benefit all Americans, and improve the economic well being of all our neighbors," Castor said kicking off the news conference.

Also speaking was 23-year-old Nanci Palacios, a recent Hillsborough Community College graduate hoping to enter USF as a bio-chemistry student and ultimately move on to medical school. Palacios and her siblings applied for and received deferred action status late last year. Last June, President Obama — by executive order — instituted deferred action, which halts deportations for immigrants under age 31 who entered the country illegally before age 16.

"I have a work permit, a work social, a drivers license for a year, but that's not enough," Palacios said. "I'm happy to have obtained that, but I still live with that fear that one day I might come home and my parents might not be there. Or that I might get that call at work, 'You know what, your parents have been detained.' I don't want to live in that fear."

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