Rep. Joe Garcia, Mayor Tomas Regalado join reform advocates at “#IAmHere Miami” in Wynwood
MIAMI - On May 4th, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida was joined by elected officials, community leaders and dozens of advocates for immigration reform at #IAmHere Miami, featuring the unveiling of a new interactive mural in Wynwood, stories from Florida immigrants caught up in our broken immigration system, and a screening of the award-winning documentary Two Americans.
“With an estimated 800,000 undocumented individuals in Florida, a huge immigrant population in Miami, and Wynwood being the epicenter of Miami’s booming art scene, we wanted to create a place where arts and advocacy could come together to advance change in our immigration system,” stated Shalini Goel Agarwal, staff attorney for the ACLU of Florida who helped organize the event. “Reform of our immigration system is decades overdue, and because of the impact that reform would have in South Florida, we want people to share their stories and make sure that they aren’t left out of immigration reform legislation. People who are impacted by immigration laws are part of our community. They are here, and their stories need to be told.”
The event is part of an ongoing project by the ACLU of Florida and the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC) to collect and share stories of individuals who support immigration reform and are impacted by our broken immigration system, in order to advocate for federal legislation that provides a path to citizenship for aspiring citizens while respecting the rights of all Americans. Among those who spoke in favor of reform at the rally were Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and Congressman Joe Garcia (FL-26).
“I am thrilled that so many have come out to hear and share stories about why immigration reform matters,” stated Rep. Garcia. “We need everyone whose life is impacted by our broken immigration system to share their stories with their elected leaders. That way, when we return to Washington to pass reform, everyone will understand what’s really at stake for millions of families.”
The mural, #IAmHere, created by the Dominican artist Ruben Ubiera, is inspired by the real stories of Floridians dealing with our harsh immigration policies and features interactive components for sharing the stories of those impacted by our immigration system. Stories collected by the Say Yes campaign were incorporated into the mural, and the mural allows visitors to interact with the images and, using a mobile device, listen to the stories of those represented in the mural and share their own.
Some of the real individuals whose stories were represented in the mural were present for the unveiling and shared their stories. “We woke up late, it was a school day, and she wasn’t there,” stated Jose Machado, whose mother was arrested and deported after being charged for driving home from work without a license when he and his twin brother were in high school. “At 15 years old, my brother and I were trying to figure out whether we should pay next month’s rent, or whether we should sell our car to pay an attorney […] That’s why I’m in this fight, to make sure no one has to go through this again.”
Jose’s story is one of seven stories which visitors to the mural can hear by using a mobile device or visiting www.aclufl.org/iamhere. The other stories include: “Rosa,” a mother of three U.S. citizen children, who served four days in jail for a minor crime and is now being targeted for deportation; “Maria,” a pregnant woman and domestic violence survivor who was placed in immigration detention for over a month without a bond hearing; Felipe, a gay man from Brazil who, because his marriage is not recognized by the federal government, cannot have his husband apply for his legal status; Viviana, an 11-year old girl whose father is in immigration detention; Cassandra, a young Haitian woman who cannot apply for college because she doesn’t have a social security number; and Jesús, a former farmworker who had an immigration detainer placed against him in a local jail in a case of mistaken identity, and who has a deportation order for May 7.
"On this wall is the pain and hope of immigrant families yearning for equality and opportunity,” stated Maria Rodriguez, Executive Director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition. “They make history by having courage to tell their stories. Join us!"
Following the mural unveiling and storytelling, #IAmHere Miami moved to The Miami Light Project for a screening of Two Americans, a documentary about a family whose lives were impacted after Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio raided a Phoenix car wash suspected of hiring undocumented workers. Co-director Dan DeVivo was present during the screening to answer audience questions after the film ended.
"In Arizona, local politicians have passed a series of laws designed to arrest, incarcerate, and scare Hispanic residents. I wanted to make a film that questioned the economic, social, and moral efficacy of this approach,” stated DeVivo. “As an artist, I strive to make films that spark dialogue around issues that divide a community. I hope that Two Americans can facilitate a conversation about the dangers of policing immigration laws at a local level.
More than 2.7 million Floridians – approximately 16.7 percent of the total population – are foreign born. That number jumps to 51 percent in Miami-Dade County. The ACLU of Florida, along with ACLU affiliates across the country, has been advocating for fair and sensible immigration reform that includes a roadmap to citizenship for immigrants and an immigration system that is fair and respects the civil rights and liberties of everyone.
The interactive website for the stories and mural is here: www.aclufl.org/iamhere
More information about the “Say Yes” campaign and the stories collected so far is available here: www.aclufl.org/sayyes
The hotline number for sharing immigration stories with the Say Yes campaign is: 1-855-236-1494