CRACKDOWN ON MEXICAN IMMIGRANTS IN TAMPA BAY AREA-Andrew Stelzer

03/26/04

Over the past week, there have been an increasing number of Mexican immigrant arrests in the Tampa bay area. At least 20 workers who are in the United States illegally were arrested up at their job site in Dade City, and there have been reports another 20 in Pasco county, Clearwater and north Tampa. Unconfirmed reports of roadblocks to stop Mexicans on their way to church have many in the community concerned.

Ramone Hernandez is the pastor at St Rita’s church in Dade city.

ACT “the problem came because one of the men had an accident.�

The round up has continued since last Thursday, with reports of police roadblocks or on-the job sting operations in Plant city, Clearwater, St Petersburg North Tampa, and South Tampa. Arnold Andrews works with Catholic Charities.

ACT What were finding is that families are in distress..living in sheer terror and fear�

Sandra Juanita is with the diocese of St Petersburg. She says that every year around this time, there are similar cases of employers turning in their employees

ACT “some people..they just get fired�

But the end of the growing season doesn’t explain all of the people who have been detained. The Clearwater police department says they have heard nothing about the roundups, and say they have a very close relationship with the Mexican community. The mayor of Dade city met with the Mexican consul and advocates from the community earlier this week, to discuss the situation, but there have been no answers as of yet to why the round ups are occurring. Juanita says that there are thousands of people in fear of deportation, and rumors are making the situation worse.

ACT “a lot of people are not going to work, even if they have papers, a panic has been created�

Juanita says church groups got involved because many of their parishners are Mexican, and there are a lot of innocent victims when immigrants are arrested without warning.

ACT “our pastoral concern is the children�

Pastor Hernandez says that the community held a vigil for those who have been arrested.

ACT “we had a vigil…300 people�

And according to Andrews from Catholic charities, the community itself is responding in its own ways.

ACT ‘some of the local radio stations�

The INS, and the mayor of Dade city, did not return WMNFs calls for comment. There have also been rumors that the roundups are part of the department of homeland security. Andrews says he hopes that isn’t the case.

ACT “this could very well be, if so, it’s not a good idea�

If you are concerned about your own safety, or if you want to donate food for families who are afraid to their homes, contact father Edwin Palka at 727-692-8569

comments powered by Disqus