Tampa immigrants rights group wants Licenses for All
An immigrants rights group in Tampa is pressuring the state legislature to allow everyone, including undocumented immigrants, to get a drivers license. The group is Raices en Tampa and one of their organizers is Marisol Márquez.
"In the state of Florida we don't have any kind of permit or any way for anyone who is undocumented to actually have a driver's license. We know that there's about 1.5 million undocumented immigrants in the state of Florida throughout a year, that's not counting those who come here for work and so forth. There's tons of states, there's a lot of states all over the US who are now extending licenses to different undocumented immigrants and Florida is definitely staying behind. We're Raices en Tampa we are working, that's our campaign this year and next year we're trying to get something passed that, something to be extended to those undocumented immigrants."
What's the history of attempts in Florida to get licenses for everyone?
"That's a good question, last year we actually had, there was a bill that was trying to get extended to those who have deferred action for childhood arrivals or DACA. It was passed unanimously throughout legislative and Governor Rick Scott in Florida vetoed it. He used his veto power to actually get rid of that and not have it be extended so we want that to be talked about next year in the coming legislative session but we don't want it to be just be limited to DACA recipients we want it to be available to all of those who are undocumented."
Why is it important for people to have licenses? Could someone get by without one? Is it just something that is a luxury item, maybe?
"It's definitely not a luxury item. We have those who are opponents who are telling us, 'no, it's a privilege', well everybody needs to drive. We have people who have a job, we have people who are parents. If you can't drive you're, by the law, not abiding by the law. If you're pulled over they can use that as an excuse to put it on your record and if you're an undocumented immigrant you need to have a clean record because as it stands in order to even apply for a lawful permanent residence, even citizenship going forward, you have to have a clean record and it's impossible to do that if you don't have the most basic thing which is a driver's license."
What about the argument from opponents of this that say, 'if you're an undocumented immigrant that means that you came to the country illegally and that you shouldn't get the rights of the citizens'?
"Right, we hear that quite often. My parents, for example, were undocumented at one point and they were immigrants from Mexico. For the longest time it was hard for them to go around. They didn't even know how to drive, number one, so eventually they learned how. There's so many people who come to this country for a lot of different reasons and a lot of those immigrants who do come here specifically from Central America or Mexico, come here because of the state of their country. Theirs NAFTA and all of these different laws that were made to kind of like repress them back home so they come here in the hopes of trying to work and they're lured here in a lot of ways by a lot of the crops and just workers in the U.S."
If people want to get involved in this, how can people get involved?
"We have a Facebook page and it's just slash Raices en Tampa and we are having our very first public meeting that everyone is invited to. It's going to be this coming Tuesday, December 17th at 7:00 p.m. and the address is 6704 Hanley Road. It's available to everyone, we're going to be able to speak English and Spanish at this meeting so if you all are worried about 'oh, I'm not going to be able to speak English or Spanish,' we definitely have it open to both languages. We just hope that we can get many more supporters. If you're interested we also do have a petition, it's available on our Facebook and if you're interested in just helping us out come to our meeting and we hope to see you there."
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