AJC advocates for immigration reform to House Republicans

AJC advocates for immigration reform to House Republicans

July 19, 2013


On Tuesday, July 16th, representatives of UnidosNow and a group of community leaders met with Rep. Vern Buchanan at his offices in Sarasota to discuss his views of passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill this year that includes a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in United States.

“The House Republicans do not feel much love for the Senate bill,” Buchanan started the conversation. “At the end of the day we will end up with a product, hopefully by October. This time we want to do things right because these laws only happen every 20-30 years.” As a result, Buchanan suggested that the House of Representatives approach would be more of a piecemeal one, versus the comprehensive Marco Rubio/Charles Schumer bill that recently passed in the Senate.

Kelly Kirschner, Chair of UnidosNow’s Board, emphasized the positive economic data that the Senate bill would bring to the country, according to recent analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, including significant deficit reduction and an increase of $450 billion in federal tax revenue.

Rep. Buchanan cited border security as one of his biggest concerns. “The 1987 amnesty did not focus on border security. What will happen in 10 more years if we do not focus on it now?” the Congressman asked. One of the solutions that the House is presenting to solve this problem is to give more power to the Sheriff’s departments to become immigration agents. Latino community leader and small business man, Jim Delgado, cautioned Buchanan on such an approach as it had been a “massive failure in places like Phoenix, Arizona with the famous Sherriff Joe costing taxpayers additional millions of dollars in expense, rising crime rates, and a host of costly lawsuits for false imprisonment.”

The Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee of Southwest Florida, Brian Lipton, spoke about the Jewish community’s concern for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country and the need to address this specific issue: “Every day we hear from members of our community the acceptance of a path to citizenship as a critical component of immigration reform.”

Buchanan’s response to Mr. Lipton: “There are 435 members in the House of Representatives and each of them is hearing something different in their communities. What we all agree on is that the system is broken, we have to fix it, and we need to do it right this time.”

While the meeting was going on behind closed doors at 111 S. Orange Avenue Sarasota, a group of 20 people from the Hispanic community concentrated outside the Congressman’s office to lead a circle of prayer for Buchanan. “We want our representative to see the light on this issue and give us the opportunity to live in this, our country legally,” said Blanca Trejo, a farmworker and a mother of four American children.

“The truth is that we treat the Hispanic community like slaves,” said Father Celestino Gutierrez of St. Jude Catholic Church. “In the last 10 years the situation has gotten worse, even though this community benefits the U.S. economy. We need laws to protect them,” concluded the Father, who encouraged Buchanan to call for a spiritual retreat with other House members. “Remember, our Constitution is written with the words, ‘under God’. We have strayed far from this and it is time to return to this.”

After the meeting, the group of people gathered outside had the opportunity to greet Buchanan. Children who were there gave letters to the Congressman telling their stories and drawings representing it.

“We thank Rep. Buchanan for meeting with UnidosNow and these community leaders to discuss immigration reform,” concluded Frankie Soriano, executive director of UnidosNow. “Obviously we are not satisfied with his approach and lack of a sense of urgency to do something for the sizable population in his district clamoring for action on this issue. We will keep on organizing our community; sharing the many inspiring stories of courageous immigrants who call SW Florida home; and calling and pressuring our elected officials, because the time to act is now.”