Tampa Dream Defenders ask Tampa City Council to support driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants listen04/18/13 Janelle Irwin
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Undocumented immigrants in Florida cannot legally drive. Thursday morning a group called the Dream Defenders asked Tampa City Council to adopt a resolution supporting a change in state law.
Alekos Zambrano presented an idea called â€œlicenses for allâ€ to city council members.
â€œFor the 1.5 million undocumented immigrants in Florida and in counties like Miami-Dade county for one, 70% of the misdemeanors that they receive and end up getting deported for are traffic related.â€
The push to let undocumented individuals obtain driverâ€™s licenses is part of a broader effort to stop deportations â€“ called Legalization for All. Tampa City Council member Mike Suarez suggested steps that would get the board talking about it. So did council chair Charlie Miranda who chimed in during Suarezâ€™s response.
â€œObviously I met you in the elevator. I didnâ€™t tell you I was a city council member at the time, but if you could, why donâ€™t you arrange to meet with some of our folks â€“ myself and some of the other council members to give us more specifics on the resolution so that we can make a determination on that then.â€
â€œMay I make a suggestion? I think he should meet with the legal department.â€
â€œWell that too. I think he just wants a letter from the council, but you need to know more about the information.â€
Zambrano was encouraged by his brief elevator ride with Suarez, saying the council member gave him the necessary information on how to set up meetings with others on council. But even if the effort by Zambrano and the Dream Defenders group to pass a resolution in Tampa is accepted, itâ€™s only symbolic. State law would need to be changed.
â€œWe want to one day go to Tallahassee with not only the support of all the cities and maybe some state legislators, but also, we build campaigns around this.â€
The Tampa Dream Defenders will rally in downtown this evening. Zambrano said the group needs to grow its support.
â€œAnd you know, theyâ€™re going to tell us that their constituents donâ€™t want this and weâ€™re basically going to have the proof that they do.â€
Zambrano expects there to be critics of the proposal to let undocumented immigrants drive. Some have argued that if immigrants donâ€™t want to get arrested and deported they shouldnâ€™t break the law by driving without a license.
â€œUndocumented immigrants arenâ€™t people who can afford to not drive when theyâ€™re going to school or mostly going to work.â€
Zambrano said driving is especially important for immigrants who live in Tampa.
â€œEveryone who lives in Tampa knows that you kind of have to drive if you need to get to work on the other side of town here. But, that being said, in places like Maryland and in Illinois where thereâ€™s not as poor of public transportation, laws like this have already been passed.â€
The rally Thursday will be at Gaslight Square Park at 5:30 p.m.