Immigrant Rights Activist Accuses Sen. Rubio's Office of Revealing his Undocumented Status to the Police
Three people were arrested at the Tampa office of U.S. Senator Marco Rubio yesterday. They were participating in a sit-in to protest Senator Rubioâs stance on the rights of lesbian and gay individuals in proposed immigration reform legislation and in workforce discrimination. But itâs what happened with one of the protesters who was not arrested that could be even more noteworthy. Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez is co-director of the LGBTQ rights group Get Equal; he is accusing a Rubio staff member of telling USF police he is undocumented.
"Get Equal is a nation LGBT organization. We fight for federal equality. Recently, Senator Marco Rubio threatened to leave the immigration reform bill if same-sex couples were included and he has also voiced a opposition to the Employment Non-discrimination Act, which is a bill in congress that would basically take away discrimination in the workplace for LGBT people."
What happened to you at Senator Rubio's office yesterday? Why were you arrested?
"Well I wasn't personally arrested, but there were three people who were. Basically, we stage a sit in. We had been trying to petition the Senator for many, many months now, trying to reason with him. We've met with many staff members in D.C., Miami, Orlando and Tampa talking about these important issues and feeling that we were unheard. So we went in there asking for an apology for the LGBT community, but also for his firm commitment on immigration reform and also his commitment on the Employment Non-discrimination Act. When we didn't here an answer we staged a sit in. There were two reverends that got arrested, plus our state leader here in the state of Florida. My role in that protest was to be a police liaison, which means that I was just supposed to make sure that the people getting arrested were not hurt, that I knew exactly where they were going to, how much I had to pay for bail, all of these things. The officer asked me to wait on the lawn and I did. I was just waiting there when most people had already left and there were only two more people with me. He approached me and asked me to step to the side. At that time he asked me 'What is your immigration status?'. I looked at him and I said 'Well, you know, you can't ask me these types of questions. This is not constitutional.' Then he said 'Are you here illegally?' and then I said 'You know I can actually sue you for racial profiling.'. At that point he said that someone in the office had told him that I was here without proper documentation."
How would someone in Marco Rubio's office know your documentation status?
"Well about three months ago I went in to that office and explained to him the reasons why we need a permanent solution, because what I have now is deferred action for childhood arrival, which expires every two years so it's not permanent status. I was asking for permanent status and I shared my story. I cam when I was 14 years old from Brazil. I grew up in Miami, I went to high school and college here and I explained that I have been contributing to this society for so long and we need meaningful immigration reform. So he basically used something I had told him in confidence against me in retaliation because of the protest we had staged."
Now I want to ask you about this mornings DOMA decision by the Supreme Court. How does that affect your immigration status?
"Well again, right now I have a work visa because of DACA, but I'm actually married to a U.S. citizen. Before DOMA was repealed that meant nothing. That meant we didn't get any of the federal rights that come along with marriage. So now, because it is repealed and it was repealed based on the fact that discrimination should not exist, I will be able to be petitioned by my husband for immigration status just like any heterosexual couple who marries and immigrant can do. That means I can go to immigration court and in a few months, if everything goes well, get a green card."
Does that affect Marco Rubio's reaction to the LGBT part of the immigration bill?
"Right now we don't need same-sex couples to be included anymore because DOMA got repealed, which is great, but we still need on other important legislation that is in front of congress that would protect LGBT people in this country. In 28 states people can still get fired for being gay and in 33 states people can still get fired for being transgender. This is an outrage. So, Senator Rubio can be one of the people who vote for that bill, be one of the people who change the history of this country. The country has turned a page, the question is will Senator Rubio also follow suit."
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