Immigration advocates urge Florida’s senators to support, vote for Dream Act

Bipartisan bill currently being written

ORLANDO, Fla. – With only three weeks left for the current Congress to act, Central Florida immigration reform advocates, including faith leaders, urged Florida senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott Tuesday to act now for Dream Act legislation.

“We have to have meaningful reform. We have to have a path that will heal the ability for individuals like Silvia again — individuals that are contributing to what makes this country great; to have a path to gain citizenship, and the time to act is now,” said retired Orlando police chief Orlando Rolón during a virtual conference.

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It’s a bill that would bring relief to so-called “dreamers” like Silvia Ruiz, who was just a child when she crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico into the United States.

“I came with my mother to reunite with my father when I was only four,” said Ruiz, 21. “I always knew that I was born in Mexico. I just didn’t know what that meant.”

Ruiz said she was in the third grade when she realized that she was not a legal resident of the U.S. However, since becoming a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, better known as DACA, she’s allowed a work permit and a driver’s license, but she has to apply to the program every two years and runs the risk of not being approved.

“It’s constant fighting every two years; every two years of, like, that anxiety of having to apply again or hoping that the application’s processed and approved,” Ruiz said.

Samuel Vilchez Santiago, state director for the American Business Immigration Coalition Action, said a bipartisan immigration package introduced by senators Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Tom Tillis of North Carolina would provide a pathway to citizenship for the country’s roughly two million dreamers.

“DACA is in judicial peril because it might go to the Supreme Court where it might be deemed as unconstitutional,” said Vilchez. “There are some federal courts that have already deemed the program unconstitutional, so now we’re waiting to see what happens.”

Vilchez said a part of the proposal could possibly make it easier for both parties to come to an agreement.

“It also provides funding for border security so basically what it does it accomplishes the goals of both parties within Congress and that’s exactly why we think that there’s a chance,” Vilchez Santiago said.

Ruiz, who is a member of HOPE Community center, a nonprofit in Apopka, said being an advocate for fellow her “dreamers” is more than that. She said it’s being a voice for her loved ones, too.

The Dream Act proposal is currently being written. It then needs to pass in both the House of Representatives and the Senate and it needs at least 10 Republican votes in favor of it.

“It would mean that I belong here and all of my efforts including my parent’s efforts and the people that came before me are worth it,” Ruiz said.

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About the Author:

Carolina Cardona highlights all Central Florida has to offer in her stories on News 6 at Nine. She joined News 6 in June 2018 from the Telemundo station in Philadelphia.