Brazilians in Broward County gather to defend immigrant rights
Brazilian immigrants met Tuesday night in a Pompano Beach restaurant to view the documentary Lost in Detention and discuss the impact current immigration detention and deportation policies have on their South Florida community.
The event was part of the national day of action that called on the Obama administration to suspend the federal immigration enforcement program Secure Communities. The day of action was held the same day U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced it deported record numbers of immigrants in fiscal year 2011.
The Warren Institute at UC Berkeley School of Law on Wednesday released the report “Secure Communities By the Numbers” (.pdf), which states that “Secure Communities is creating an incentive for some local law enforcement agencies to engage in racial profiling through the targeting of Latinos for minor violations or pretextual arrests.”
Urbano Santos, president of the Brazilian Community Center in Deerfield Beach, tells The Florida Independent the main goal of the Center is to organize the Brazilian community: “We have to help them with education, information and employment.”
“We try to be a bridge to help and one thing that is common to our community is the immigration justice issue,” Santos says, adding that the Center also reaches out to immigrants from other countries.
According to Santos, many Brazilians have not applied for residency and have problems with their immigration status. He says they have seen Broward police help the government detain immigrants.
Esther Sales, a 21-year-old undocumented Florida International University student who came to the U.S at the age of 10 and is a volunteer at the Brazilian Community Center, tells the Independent that “it’s been a struggle.”
“I’ve had so many offers from top accounting firms, but I can’t accept anything, because I don’t have the legal status,” she says.
She says her family, which includes her two siblings, overstayed their visa and that several immigration lawyers have told them at this point they have no legal recourse to adjust their immigration status.
Sales pays out-of-state tuition and gets no help through government funds, which translates into a financial burden, a situation that affects many students she personally knows. Her mains focus is the DREAM Act because, “I’m graduating next semester, but then what comes after that?”
The DREAM Act would grant people who entered the U.S. illegally before the age of 16 conditional permanent resident status for a period of six years, after which they would be eligible to become legal permanent residents if they obtain at least an associate-level college degree or serve in the military for two years.