ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Central Florida activists are asking Republican lawmakers Tuesday to follow the lead of California U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham and support the latest comprehensive immigration reform bill.
Last weekend, Denham became the first House Republican to join the Democrat-backed plan. On Tuesday, farmworkers, students and their supporters will press GOP Reps. Dennis Ross, Tom Rooney and Daniel Webster to follow suit. Hundreds of activists plan to march through downtown Orlando and also call on House speaker John Boehner to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. Also Tuesday, Jacksonville evangelical leaders will join their brethren at the U.S. Capitol to urge Congress to act.
"The reform isn't a political action. It's a humane action," said Hilario Bajaras, a 63-year-old-farmworker who lives in Auburndale and planned to take part in the march.
Even though Barajas was born in the United States, making him a U.S. citizen, his parents weren't and they were deported to Mexico when he was age 3. Barajas and his brother and sister returned to Mexico with his parents until he was 13-years-old and decided to return to the U.S. with his brother to work as a farmworker in Texas. He said he understands firsthand the strain on families the current immigration laws impose.
Alma Javier, a union leader who will also march in Orlando, said Boehner and other lawmakers need to realize their children could one day marry immigrants and experience firsthand how visa problems can split up families.
"It's really hard seeing all of these families broken up," said Javier, a union leader who represents food and beverage workers at Walt Disney World.
U.S. Rep Joe Garcia introduced the bill, which includes a path to citizenship for many in the country illegally. It needs Republican support to pass.
In a statement, Rooney said he supports legislation that would secure borders and create a guest worker program for farmers.
"Instead of trying to pass a massive bill, which almost certainly couldn't pass in the House and which would be a nightmare to implement ... I'd like to see us move in a step-by-step direction that accomplishes our shared goals," Rooney said. "I think it's critical that we secure the border before addressing more controversial issues."
A spokeswoman for Webster didn't immediately comment.
Ross said in a statement he supports immigration reform but it should be done "in an incremental fashion."