U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross talks immigration to angry Lutz residents at Town Hall meeting

07/03/13 Naveen Sultan
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Republican U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross held a Town Hall meeting in Lutz yesterday where residents addressed concerns about immigration. Several members of the audience were furious about the U.S. Senate’s bill to create a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented people.

U.s Rep. Dennis Ross

Congressman Dennis Ross said he would not vote for the immigration overhaul bill as it passed the Senate. He said instead the House of Representatives will work on legislation that will include stronger border security, an e-verify program and an expanded visa program. He also said that a path to citizenship is not needed in the new plan.

"We don’t need to address the citizenship issue as we already have a citizenship process in place. What we need to do is recognize that those 11 million that are over here, a predominate amount of them are here for one reason: economic reasons, reasons to feed their family, reasons to have a job and what we want to be able to do is to be able to document these people, allow them the opportunity where we can’t have domestic labor to do services and to do work, let them do that and go back to their country and have reentry into our country. If we can do a documentation program that allows for that and allows for the strengthening of our borders and making sure that employers hire only people who are documented we will have taken away so much of the problems of immigration."

Many Florida residents asked for Representative Ross’s help to keep immigrant families together but he said the only way to fix the broken immigration system is to send undocumented workers back to their countries so that they can return legally.

"I have had a chance to meet with a lot of these people and believe me their stories are very, very compelling. When you’re talking about breaking up families, when you’re talking about seeing fathers being deported, this hits home. It’s something that is an issue that we need to address. I have offered my services to work with them. I believe we can work with them. I’ve been working with some of the families in the district that have had some deportation problems but the bottom line is that this is a system that has been broken for a long long time. Let’s get a system in place that provides that documentation and the opportunity for them to earn their citizenship if that’s what they choose or the opportunity to be here for economic reasons and have a job and go back home if that’s what they choose."

Sam Calco, Republican Lutz resident spoke out at the meeting about his frustration with his party’s response to immigration reform.

"I don’t worry too much about democrats running for office I worry about the republicans. When am I going to get what I vote for? I should have voted for Charlie Crist because I voted for Marco Rubio, supported him and now this immigration law that he’s supporting is a joke. Immigration, I went to many of his campaign stops and he said we are going to enforce the current laws and secure the borders. That’s what he told us. He’s done as far as I’m concerned, I’m voting for Allen West in 2016. How hard is it to say enforce current laws on immigration, secure the borders and then we’ll talk about a pathway to citizenship? They already did this in 86 and we still got another 11 million future democratic voters."

Pamela Gomez is a college student and community organizer. She attended the town hall meeting hoping to change Rep. Ross’s views on a pathway to citizenship. She said she experienced disrespectful treatment from other residents who had bad things to say about immigrants and she wanted the member of congress to see things from her eyes.

"I had this person who I respectfully listen to, who was saying all this negative stuff in the ear about the xenophobic things that we always hear - that immigrants that come to this country are criminals, that we just come here as illegals, that we’re not contributing to the economy, that we’re not paying taxes. So I just wanted to him to see the human side that there’s people like myself who have been here, who have gone through it, who are now voters, who can elect him in and out of office and who are organizing and let him know that we want the same opportunities that were granted to immigrants from generations back to be continued to be granted. So I personally don’t understand why they don’t support a pathway to citizenship. We know it’s clear that it’s the fear of change especially the xenophobic that we’re increasing as minorities and this country is changing, it’s not what it used to be and it’s not what it started right?"

Gomez said that she wanted Rep. Ross to understand that every day, kids come into this country that want to become future leaders and they should be granted the opportunity to do so by a path way to citizenship. The congressman held another town hall meeting in Brandon where an immigrant rights group spoke before hand at a press conference to ask for comprehensive immigration reform.

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