As Sen. Marc Rubio (R—West Miami) fundraised atop a Sarasota penthouse Friday afternoon, demonstrators didn't want the Florida Congressman to forget about the people at the bottom.
A couple dozen peaceful demonstrators, mainly with Sarasota-based UnidosNow, gathered at Gulfstream Avenue to support Rubio's immigration plan, and want to make sure he's consistent with his message and what he believes in.
"We want to make sure this year that immigration reform passes," said Beatriz Paniego-Bejar, a spokeswoman for UnidosNow, which pushes for rights for Southwest Florida's Hispanic communities. "We want a comprehensive immigration reform, and UnidosNow is behind the Congressional Hispanic caucus principles, and one of those is principles is going to give a pathway to citizenship to the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country."
The Hispanic and Latin population makes up 8.2 percent of Sarasota County's population and 22.9 percent of Florida's population, making it the second largest race population in both the county and state. Yet 825,000 undocumented residents are estimated to live in Florida.
Specifically for Rubio, Peniego-Bajar noted that Rubio's message has changed slightly, depending who he is speaking to, and the organization and community wants his stance to be solidified.
Overall, Rubio goes against the grain in the Republican party by embracing what's called a pathway to citizenship plan, but he avoided the topic altogether at a highly visible Conservative Political Action Conference Thursday in Maryland.
While immigration reform is being worked on by Rubio and what's being called his Gang of Eight, or eight bipartisan senators are developing a plan, there is no bill in the works.
Here are the main points of the plan, according to the Miami-Herald:
"1. Create a tough but fair path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States that is contingent upon securing our borders and tracking whether legal immigrants have left the country when required.
2. Reform our legal immigration system to better recognize the importance of characteristics that will help build the American economy and strengthen American families.
3. Create an effective employment verification system that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of future unauthorized workers.
4. Establish an improved process for admitting future workers to serve our nation’s workforce needs, while simultaneously protecting all workers."
Andreas Delgado is the deferred action program director for UnidosNow. What the demonstrators want is a solid pathway to citizenship program that's practical for undocumented immigrants to take advantage of, so they become full-fledged taxpaying citizens.
"Instead of amnesty, we want something that is real. There are 11 million people in the country right now, and they're not going to go anywhere," he said. "It's not going to be feasible to just deport all of them. We want something that works."
Delgado came to America with his family from Colombia, and have been fortunate to visit their family in South America. He's now a permanent resident and is on his way to becoming an American citizen.That's not the case for other families, and Delgado wants to see that changed by making sure the immigrants can become citizens and be paid fair wages.
"We have people living in this country for 15, 20 years that they haven't seen their families in Mexico, Colombia or some other country," he said. "They just want an opportunity to go back and visit them."
Delgado added that the policy should be more about people and not politics.
"We want something more humane," he said. "It's not about politics, it's more about human rights."