Bipartisan virtual summit calls for overhaul of the immigration system

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – The Immigration Partnership & Coalition Fund, a Miami-Dade-based organization that advocates for undocumented immigrants’ rights through bipartisan action, hosted a virtual summit on Thursday.

Billionaire Mike Fernandez, who was born in Cuba, grew up in New York, and now lives in Coral Gables, founded the IMPAC Fund in 2017 as the Florida chapter of the American Business Immigration Coalition, which promotes immigration reform.

“Immigration should change during 2021,” Fernandez said. “To remain as it is, it’s simply unacceptable.”

The summit comes as Democrats are focusing on the new immigration bill that President Joe Biden sent to Congress and before former President Donald Trump appears at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando.

The summit’s panelists included former Sen. Mel Martinez, Rep. Mario Diaz Balart, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has been critical of Trump’s immigration policies.

“We have a bipartisan tradition of supporting immigration initiatives to give people a chance to live a life of dignity and a life of purpose,” Bush said.

Diaz-Balart said that in order to reform the immigration system everyone had to be willing to accept not getting “every single thing that we want” and support a bipartisan legislative proposal.

Eduardo José Padrón, the president emeritus of Miami Dade College, was also at the summit. He has been a supporter of policies such as the DREAM Act and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which have been designed to protect undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as minors.

“A dreamer is as American as anyone ... an American in every respect — except for the paperwork,” said Padron, who was born in Cuba, moved to the U.S. at 15 years old, and earned his doctorate from the University of Florida.

Monica Lazaro, a DACA recipient who was born in Honduras and moved to Miami when she was 9 years old, recently earned her master’s degree at Harvard University. She is interested in public health policies to provide affordable health care to immigrants.

“For the sake of our food supply and our healthcare system and overall quality of life, we must bring our immigration system into the 21st century,” Lazaro said.

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikkie Fried and Paul J. DiMare, one of the country’s most influential farmers were also panelists.

“Farmworkers stepped up in the pandemic to keep the food supply secure at risk of their own well-being. Our economy, our culture, our society needs to celebrate immigrants,” Fried said.

Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio oppose Biden’s immigration bill. Rubio, whose parents were born in Cuba, has referred to the bill as a “blanket amnesty.”

About the Authors:

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.