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Tampa May Day rally demands legalization for all

By Jared Hamil |
May 2, 2013
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May Day march in Tampa, FL
May Day march in Tampa, FL (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Tampa, FL – On May 1, a large crowd gathered during a rain storm to demand legalization for all undocumented people and overall genuine immigration reform. May Day, or International Workers' Day, traditionally has been a day for demanding workers' rights. In recent years, it has been a day for Latinos, immigrants and allies to demand legalization and full equality.

During a heavy Florida rainstorm, activists, undocumented immigrants and community members from the Tampa Bay area gathered under a pavilion in a local park. The different organizations and people united under a banner reading, “May Day: 11 million people need equal rights!”

The rally started off with a group of speakers talking to the crowd about the need for legalization and the different aspects of Congress' proposed immigration bill. As the speakers opened up, Juan Rodriguez-Sosa of FLIC (Florida Immigration Coalition) announced to the crowd, “This May Day we honor the organizing victories by workers throughout history and bring particular attention to the most vulnerable workers in our nation - undocumented workers and their families - seeking full federal equality!”

The organizations present were: Dream Defenders, the Florida Immigration Coalition (FLIC), United We Dream, Young American Dreamers, the AFL-CIO, Students for a Democratic Society, the ACLU and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

During one of the speeches, Dustin Ponder of the West Central Florida Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO said, “Just as it stood 127 years ago, May Day is a day of new beginnings for workers in this country. Today we all must make the commitment that no longer will we buy into the fictions of corporations and politicians who use immigration policy to keep sections of workers in the place of second-class citizens in effort to drive down wages and rights of workers universally.” Between speakers, the crowd chanted “Indocumentado, sin miedo,” and “What do we want? Legalization! When do we want it? Now!”

Also among the speakers was Jesus Guevara, an undocumented immigrant who has lived in Florida for over 15 years. He is set to be deported on May 7. Guevara urged activists and the community to demand an end to deportations.

After the speakers, the rally moved into the streets carrying red flags reading “L4A,” or “Legalization for all,” and marched down the Tampa Ybor District's 7th Avenue. 7th Avenue has seen protests for progressive causes and demanding equal rights for all workers and nationalities many times over the last 100 years. People on the streets cheered for the marchers.

Back at the park, the crowd opened up with an activity which showed how difficult the ‘pathway to citizenship’ is. It showed how immigrants have major setbacks and deterrents because of Congress' proposed bill and that for most it is impossible to gain full legalization under this bill.

As Marisol Marquez, of Dream Defenders and the Legalization For All Network, explained, “There are a lot of good things in this bill, like only a five-year wait for Dreamers and farmworkers, without fines. However, there are many more bad things. Like creating temporary visas that don't allow legalization or citizenship, creating more second-class people still without access to basic rights. It also doesn't allow people to sponsor families for residency. It makes people wait over ten years just for a permanent status. And worst of all, it creates more militarization of the border and increases funding for the police to criminalize Latinos and the undocumented. We need more than what these corporate politicians want!”

The activists all came together to say one thing: more is needed for the undocumented to have equal rights in the U.S. They all said that groups and people cannot stop now, and that they must continue to struggle in order to win what the people need. The rally and activities ended with a vow to continue fighting for rights and legalization for all undocumented.