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Activists issue "travel warning" over Florida immigration policies

By Kate Bradshaw, For Creative Loafing , On 16 February 2018, Read Original
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Activist groups demonstrated outside government buildings throughout Florida Wednesday to rail against policies targeting undocumented immigrants.

In Tampa, more than a dozen stood behind a podium along Kennedy Boulevard, right near the entrance to the Hillsborough County Center in downtown Tampa.

Their message?

A mock travel advisory warning minorities from other states and countries that they could be targeted by law enforcement if they visit Florida. 

“We are calling on the public today to reconsider travel to Florida due to racial profiling, disregard for civil liberties and the abuses of law enforcement authorities, especially those on matters related to immigration," said Brianne Gonyea, an attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Florida.

At issue for them is a litany of policies they deem harmful and discriminatory — from the rescinding of DACA to mass deportations. Front and center was an agreement between 17 Florida sheriffs' offices (including those of Hillsborough and Pinellas) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The agreement requires county jails to hold undocumented immigrants who are released after an arrest for up to 48 hours so ICE officers can detain them for possible deportation.

Activists believe the policy is unlawful and can potentially tear working families apart.

Maria Jose Chapa, a lead organizer with Florida Service Employees International Union, decried a policy currently being considered in the state legislature that would require employees of municipal, county and state governments to report potentially undocumented individuals to ICE. The proposed legislation, consisting of HB 9 in the house and SB 308 in the senate, is being championed by Florida House Speaker Corcoran (R-Lutz), a possible candidate for governor whose political action committee recently ran an anti-immigrant ad critics widely panned as misleading and racist.

"This facilitates the separation of immigrant families and violates key protections of the constitution,” Chapa said of the policy. “I want you all to understand that these tactics right now, these quote-unquote laws, are nothing but similar to gestapo. Gestapo, nazi policies that used to be in plcve in Nazi Germany.”

Immigration Travel WarningThis image circulated on social media Wednesday.FOR FLORIDA'S FUTURE/MI FAMILIA VOTA

A graphic accompanying Wednesday's "travel advisory" included a map of Florida, and highlighted the 17 counties the coalition deems dangerous for undocumented immigrants as well as those where there might be a "higher likelihood of  immigration arrests due to additional proximity to an international airport or seaport."

“They are thugs," Chapas said of those who create and carry out policies targeting otherwise lawful undocumented immigrants and their children. "They are criminals. And they need to be stopped.”

Marc Rodriguez of Hillsborough Community Protection Coalition said the policies supported by the likes of Corcoran and president Trump will “inevitably lead to more and more racial profiling.”

“If a person has overstayed their visa and they're here from Canada or from Ireland, does the same suspicion apply to them? Or does it only apply to brown people or people with Spanish-sounding accents or surnames?”

To Stephanie Garza of For Our Future Florida, Corcoran's embrace of anti-immigrant policies seem to have come about for one reason alone: political convenience.

“The Republican Speaker of the House once called Donald Trump repugnant and lamented how so many people could except a presidential candidate who offended so many groups of people, including women, people with disabilities and Latinos," she said. "In 2018, however, you'd be hard-pressed to find something about Donald Trump that Richard Corcoran won't stand by.”

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