Speakers at USF Forum on immigration reform say their time is now

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He also defended immigration judges, who he says in many cases have "really big hearts" but are limited in how they can rule due to federal statutes.  He spoke after an undocumented college student from Polk State College named Enrique had described his particular plight, saying that it was stories like his that will ultimately allow for comprehensive immigration reform to happen.

That remains to be seen of course.  But activists are hoping to make an impact this weekend with their protest in D.C.

Lorena Colin is the National Coordinator for the Mexican American Coalition.  She discussed the issues around a new immigration bill introduced by Illinois Democrat Luis Gutierrez in the House, and Senate language for a companion bill being discussed with New York's Chuck Schumer and Republican Lindsey Graham from Tennessee.

She said during those discussions about possible legislation that the Senators recently had with President Obama, the President agreed to focus on deporting criminals, and not any of the other estimated 12-15 million undocumented people in the country currently.  "I think this is the right moment to do it," she said of trying the very formidable challenge of comprehensive immigration reform.

Jessica Sanchez, Central Florida organizer for the group Reform Immigration for America, said she admired Enrique for speaking out, and said she knew for undocumented students that it was a difficult situation to "come out," as it can put one's family in a dangerous situation, "but sometimes it's worth it."

As CL's Blaire Yancy writes in another post published today, there is a major demonstration for comprehensive immigration reform scheduled for this Sunday in Washington D.C., and at an event last night on the Tampa campus of USF, organizers were busy recruiting as many people as possible to travel from Tampa for the weekend's activities.

They did that before and after a 90 minute forum was held with a host of speakers discussing the need for such reform, as well as the need for the enactment of the DREAM Act (which stands for Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act),  federal legislation that has been discussed for nearly a decade in Congress, but never enacted.

The legislation would allow undocumented immigrant students who are of good moral character, arrived in the states as a minor, and been in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill's enactment, the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency.  Essentially it would provide an opportunity for those students to enlist in the military or go to college and have a path to citizenship which they otherwise would not have without.

Last night the one hundred or so people in attendance at the Oval Theatre in the Marshall Center heard from St. Petersburg immigration attorney Arturo Rios, who said that those immigrants who go before an immigration judge these days, 81% end up being deported.  He said that currently, enforcement has been heightened by the federal government, and said right now there are more ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents in the country working than FBI agents.

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