Tampa entrepreneurs show support for comprehensive immigration reform

"The United States is successful because of innovation," Congresswoman Kathy Castor told reporters after hosting the discussion at Bayshore Technologies in Town N' Country. "You can have a good idea and turn it into something, but you have to have the talented and skilled work force to make it happen."

The four entrepreneurs that she assembled are certainly the embodiment of the American Dream: They were all born outside of the U.S. (in some cases under tough conditions), moved to this country, and have since thrived — ultimately becoming financially successful — by working hard.

Bayshore Technologies is run by London native Peter Anderson, a name familiar to some local soccer fans who remember him as a member of the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the '70s. He has turned Bayshore Technologies into a thriving IT company with $35 million in annual revenues. Earlier this year, Bayshore Technologies was bought out by the tech firm Vology.

Thanh Pham owns the Shellak Nails salon in South Tampa. He said his real dream is providing financial services to fellow Vietnamese in the Southeast who often have trouble with banks because of their inability to speak English.

Cuban native Marlen Abrahantes is the CEO of SIMA Communications. He recently became the general manager of CNN Latino, which now has stations in New York, Phoenix and Orlando. All three cities have agreed to carry the eight-hour-a-day syndicated block of programming from the Spanish language news network.

St. Pete marketing consultant Mario Farias rounded out the table of participants, telling the story of his father moving to the states from Portugal in the late 1940s.

For weeks, House Republicans have said that they won't even look at the Senate's bill on comprehensive immigration reform. Instead, they are talking about passing legislation similar to the DREAM Act, which would affect young undocumented immigrants.

Castor said she thought that was rich, considering that the House Republicans voted last month to defund the Deferred Action program instituted by President Obama in June of 2012. That action allows young unauthorized immigrants — who were brought to the U.S. as minors — to temporarily avoid deportation by going to college or joining the military.

Castor said although she has always supported the DREAM act, she thinks it's insufficient right now.

"They want to say they've addressed immigration reform, and tried to say 'watch this shiny object' and divert everyone's attention from what we really need, which is a comprehensive plan to improve the immigration system in this country ... it's a gimmick."

Meanwhile, one House Republican indicated in recent days that he will support comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. That would be Winter Garden Rep. Daniel Webster. The Orlando Sentinel reported that Webster was identified weeks ago by top Democrats as one of 23 "persuadable" House Republicans.

  • Kathy Castor listens to businesswoman Marlen Abrahantes while Mario Farias observes

Last week, a group advocating for comprehensive immigration reform announced their formation and their goal — to zero in on more than 100 House Republicans, most who are on record as saying they would never support a bill that equates to "amnesty."

"The Conservative Immigration Support Network will deliver an important message to Congress this August to continue their work on conservative immigration reform," declared Brian O. Walsh, president of the American Action Network (AAN).

Fox News Latino reported that the AAN initiative will include a $250,000 program "engaging key local leaders, mobilizing our existing grassroots network, and releasing district-by-district studies on the economic impact of immigration reform."

Today in Tampa, Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor attempted to persuade constituents of some of those GOP legislators by holding a round table discussion and then a press conference with four local business entrepreneurs, all immigrants who have made a success of themselves in the community.

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