A group of Florida immigrants are headed to Washington to rally in support of President Barack Obama's immigration programs that allow millions of children and parents illegally in the country to avoid deportation.
The trip and rally are part of a national effort to make their voices heard Monday when the Supreme Court hears arguments in a lawsuit brought by 26 states that challenges Obama's actions. A ruling could be made in June.
At issue is the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans. In 2014, Obama took executive action to allow people who have been in the United States more than five years and who have children in the country legally to "come out of the shadows and get right with the law." Another program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allows children brought here illegally by their parents to remain temporarily. The court is reviewing the program impacting parents.
Combined, more than 5 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally benefit from the programs. In Florida, about 229,000 individuals here illegally are eligible.
A host of immigrant advocates and individuals who are in the country illegally spoke at a news conference in Miami Wednesday to explain how critical it is for the nation's highest court to rule in their favor.
Julio Calderon, a student at Florida International University, comes from a family of six that includes relatives here legally and illegally. He is here illegally after entering the country in 1998 just 30 days after his 16th birthday, which is past the deadline to qualify for DACA. His younger brother, however, qualified under the same program, allowing him to work, go to school and get a driver's license.
"Even though I'm not eligible, I continue to fight for immigration reform for all," said Calderon, who graduates this year with a degree in economics and who is working with a lawyer to gain legal residency.
"We want to live and work in peace. We don't want to live in fear," said Yaquelin Lopez, who is dependent on DAPA to remain in the country. DAPA allows parents here illegally with U.S. children to gain temporary legal status.
Jorge Cortes, who qualified for DACA, said "deportations are dividing families" and that immigrants, like himself, are paying taxes and contributing to the U.S. economy. Originally from Colombia, Cortes is a business entrepreneur in Miami.
Maria Rodriguez, executive director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, who is among the main organizers of the Washington trip and rally, said she expects the Supreme Court to rule in immigrants' favor "because it's good for immigrant families and good for the country."