Faith leaders and immigrants urge comprehensive immigration reform

03/11/13 Seán Kinane
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Monday in Orlando faith leaders and immigrant students held a prayer rally to reform the nation’s immigration system.

Minutes before the rally was to begin, WMNF spoke by phone with one of the organizers, Rev. Errol Thompson, pastor of New Life Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Orlando.

He’s also chair of PICO (People Improving Communities for Organizing) United Florida.

"The rally is about a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million people here in the United States that have not yet received any kind of citizenship. Here we'll be urging from around the state that will be speaking to that issue as well as those who are 'dreamers' who desire to become American citizens as well. Just to reiterate, there are 11 million undocumented Americans that want to come out of the shadows of their status so that they can receive legal residency here in the United States. We have 'dreamers' who will be speaking to that issue at the press conference today."

Why is it important to you and to other members of PICO for people to have a pathway to citizenship?

"It's important because there are people who believe in the American dream who are traveling from various parts of the world to come to America to help to make her a great nation. When they come the process by which they have to go through to receive that citizenship is rather tiresome and costly. In reality our immigration system really needs an overall. It needs to be reformed. It is something that Congressmen have constantly communicated but nothing has been done thus far."

You say that nothing's been done, there is now maybe more of a discussion about immigration and some more people thinking that something should be done. What are your expectations for what could happen politically in the near future? What do you hope for?

"I do understand that Senator Marco Rubio has already started some drafting, at least, documentwise. I've not seen that yet to see what it actually gives, I'm just aware that there was a discussion, that there's a draft in place and hopefully I can see that soon. But the reality is that we're hoping against () after that. The time frame in which it takes for a person to become a citizen will be reduced from the average of 11 to 13 years now that it takes to less than that. We anticipate about 7 years in terms of what that should take."

Finally, Reverend Errol Thompson, pastor of New Life Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Orlando and chair of PICO United Florida, regarding Senator Rubio you are asking people to sign a letter asking Senator Rubio to support the campaign's principles of reform and you will deliver that letter to the Senator's Orlando office. Why are you specifically targeting Senator Rubio here?

"He isn't a target but he is a person of interest as I've stated earlier. He has helped to draft the legislation that's being discussed on the Republican view so why not him? He is someone who is the son of immigrants and so we believe that he should have a vested stake in this. He knows the benefits personally what it means to have parents that are immigrants who travelled to this country so that he now is a Senator and he represents what many who come to this country are trying to do for their own families as well."

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