— If the 18 people brought together Monday by two Broward and Palm Beach County members of
To U.S. Rep.
"It is an important issue nationally. It is a vitally important issue in this community," said U.S. Rep.
For Brayan Vazquez, of Delray Beach, it was much more personal.
Vazquez, 18, is about to graduate from Olympic Heights High School. He wants to study computer engineering at college and, ultimately, work in computer forensic technology for the
But he's living in the country illegally after his parents brought him and his sister, now 8, to the U.S. from Mexico six years ago. He said he'll soon confront state rules that force him to pay out-of-state tuition to obtain higher education in Florida.
Vazquez said he plans to work and apply for scholarships to get through school, while hoping for an immigration law that includes a way for him to become a U.S. citizen so he can "fulfill my dream of working for the U.S. government" — and see his sister spared from the kind of uncertainty he's facing.
Vazquez, who was sitting in the middle of a small audience of about 40 for the unpublicized Deutch and Frankel event gathering at
The gathering included many Democrats, but also a businessman, a chamber of commerce executive and a commissioner of the old Immigration and Naturalization Service under former President
"We cannot allow or stand for second class citizenship," said Alfred Delgado, president of the Broward Democratic Hispanic Caucus. He said immigration must include a way for people already in the U.S. to become citizens.
Isabel Vinent, deputy director of the Florida Immigration Coalition, called for an end to police acting as immigration agents. "People in our communities are scared of the police," she said.
James Ziglar, who served as an immigration commissioner for Bush, said reform would reduce the exploitation of people who are in the country without permission and face demands from unscrupulous employers.
And he said the government isn't doing a good job either, treating detained immigrants in the country illegally worse than "hardened criminals."
He said comprehensive immigration reform is an "economic imperative." And Dennis Grady, chief executive officer of the Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches, said immigration reform would allow people to come to the U.S. and to maintain secure and stable jobs.
Ted Parsons of the Palm Beach-Treasure Coast
Parsons said tying immigration reform to border security may serve to prevent meaningful reforms because someone can always point to the border and say controls need to be strengthened. "They keep moving the goal posts on that."
Yet border security is an essential element of any deal in the view of U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican who represents part of southern Broward County. "You can't have a bill without border security. You just can't," he said Sunday on
"There has to be a real, not lip service, a real serious border and security component to this," he said.
Diaz-Balart, one of eight members of the House working on a bipartisan plan for immigration legislation, said the task is large. "All of it has to be fixed. It is broken from A to Z. We have to fix it from soup to nuts," he told CNN.
Deutch said it won't be easy. Once the Diaz-Balart group and a separate group of senators come forward with specific plans, Deutch said opponents of changing the system – who've largely been keeping quiet – will strike.
Frankel said it wouldn't happen unless proponents of change "keep your voices loud."
Here's the roster of participants (provided by Frankel's office) as they were seated around the horseshoe table:
Dr. John McGovern, Guatemalan Maya Center
Father O'Loughlin, Guatemalan Maya Center
Alfred Delgado, Broward Democratic Hispanic Caucus
Isabel Vinent, Florida Immigration Coalition
Isidro Raul Mejia, PBC Democratic Hispanic Caucus
William Mayville, Workaway Staffing
Former Commissioner Burt Aaronson
Commissioner McVoy (
Jay Zigler, Former Commissioner of INS
Congressman Ted Deutch
Congresswoman Lois Frankel
Ted Parsons, AFL-CIO
Dennis Grady, Chamber of Commerce
Aileen Joseph, Florida Voices for Immigration Reform
Aimee Cernicharo, St Thomas University Human Rights Institute
Natalie Carlier, National Council of La Raza
Mary Jill Hanson, Law Office of Mary Jill Hanson
Jose Rendon, PBC Sheriff's Office
Chief Deputy Michael Gauger, PBC Sheriff's Office