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"We're Here To Stay," Say Immigration Ralliers To Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart

Immigration activists rallied outside Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart’s Miami office on Tuesday morning, asking him to want him to vote “NO” on President Donald Trump’s budget increase for immigration enforcement and asking that those funds are allocated instead for education. 

The rally was the culmination of a movement-training program run by the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) that brought 70 youth activists from eight states to Miami for the weekend.

Credit Allison Light / WLRN
Mary Moreno came with the Texas Organizing Project to participate in the training and rally.

Organizers say Rep. Diaz-Balart has previously been sympathetic to their cause, with a track record of supporting immigrants seeking citizenship and voting for the Dream Act in 2010.

“There’s very few Congressmen that are really kind of moveable, especially Republicans, and he’s one of them,” said Mary Moreno, who came from Houston with the Texas Organizing Project. “So we have to be very strategic about who we target, and who is winnable.”  

Some ralliers worried their families would be at risk if the Trump administration targets immigrants with temporary protected status (TPS) or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Credit Allison Light / WLRN
Julio Calderón, with the Florida Immigration Coalition, wears a shirt that says "[U]NDOCU[ME]NTED."

“My parents have TPS, my brother has DACA, my younger sister is a US citizen, and my brother and I are undocumented,” said Julio Calderón, Access to Higher Education organizer for the Florida Immigrant Coalition. “So I think it is time to really take leadership and to give us the opportunity to stay in the US.”

This weekend’s program in Miami is the first of four such events that the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) is planning.  

Credit Allison Light / WLRN
"When I graduated High School I wanted to reconcile my immigrant identity with my queer identity and my Latinx identity," said Javier Cifuentes. He has been working with FIRM for the past year.

“I feel like immigrant youth are the most passionate, the most excited, really smart,” said Javier Cifuentes, 20, who spent the past year working with FIRM in Washington, D.C. He will be starting at Harvard in the fall, where he plans to study human rights and international relations. “And you know, students like me, we’re not anomalies. We’re here to help improve this country and make it better.”

Their efforts got the Congressman’s attention. During the rally, six constituents were invited inside to speak with Diaz-Balart about their concerns.